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Full text of "Heart of the world"


H. RIDER HAGGARD 

U V> rJ \J 




THE LIBRARY 

OF 
THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 
LOS ANGELES 






\ 




Maya. 



HEART OF THE WORLD 



BY 

H. EIDER HAGGARD 

AUTHOR OF 'KING SOLOMON'S MINES' 'SHE' 
'ALLAN QUATBBMAIN ' ETC. 



LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO. 

LONDON, NEW YORK, AND BOMBAY 
1896 

All rights reserved 



College 
Library 



H 



Dedication 



I INSCRIBE THIS STORY OF THE GOLDEN CITY 

' HEART OF THE WORLD' 

TO MY NAMESAKE AND GODCHILD 

HENRY RIDER HAGGARD 

OF BUTLER, U. S. A. 



Ditchingham, 

Christinas Day, 1894 



1116 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

PROLOGUE DON IGNATIO i 

CHAPTER 

I. How THE PLOT FAILED , . 15 

II. THE SENOR STRICKLAND 29 

III. THE SUMMONS 42 

IV. THE LEGEND OF THE HEART 54 

V. THE BEGINNING OF THE QUEST 70 

VI. "EL NORTE" '. . 82 

VII. "THE HACIENDA" 95 

VIII. THE SUPPER AND AFTER 108 

IX. THE DUEL 120 

X. How MOLAS DIED. 133 

XI. ZIBALBAY TELLS His MISSION 146 

XII. MAYA DESCENDS THE CUEVA 160 

XIII. IGNATIO'S OATH 174 

XIV. THE CITY OF THE HEART 189 

XV. How ZIBALBAY CAME HOME 205 

XVI. ON THE PYRAMID 218 

XVII. THE CURSE OF ZIBALBAY 232 

XVIII. THE PLOT 246 

XIX. THE SACRILEGE 258 

XX. THE COUNCIL OF THE HEART 270 

XXI. THE MARRIAGE OF MAYA 284 

XXII. MATTAI PROPHESIES EVIL 296 

XXIII. OUR FLIGHT AND How IT ENDED 308 

XXIV. NAHUA BEARS WITNESS 320 

XXV. FAREWELL 333 

ENVOI 345 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS, 



MAYA Frontispiece 

TO FACE PAGE 

' CAN YOU READ THIS WRITING ? ' IO 

'THIS IS YOUR DOING, WOMAN ! ARE YOU NOT AFRAID?' . . 31 

'YOU SHALL PAY FOR THAT, ENGLISHMAN.' 75 

I DID NOT SO MUCH AS SUFFER MY EYELIDS TO TREMBLE, . . 114 

'OH! THAT I WERE FREE TO AVENGE YOU!' 126 

THE MASS OF STONEWORK FELL, . . . TAKING MOLAS WITH IT. 145 

SO BEAUTIFUL WAS THIS BUBBLE . . . THAT FOR SOME MINUTES 

MAYA WATCHED IT; 170 

PRESENTLY THE CURTAIN WAS DRAWN, AND THE LADY MAYA 

JOINED US 184 

' IT IS I, ZlBAI.BAY, YOUR LORD, COME HOME* 2OQ 

IT WAS . . . ZlBALBAY, . . . COME BACK FROM THE BOUN- 
DARIES OF DEATH ' 265 

' You FALSE LADY OF THE HEART,' 304 

OUT OF THE MOUTH OF THE PIT . . . SPRANG A VAST COLUMN 

OF WATER, 337 

SHE WAS MAD 341 

PRESENTLY THE GREAT PILE WAS ALIGHT 343 



HEART OF THE WORLD 



PROLOGUE 

DON IG2STATIO 

THE circumstances under which the following pages come 
to be printed are somewhat curious and worthy of record. 
Within the last few years a certain English gentleman, 
whom we will call Jones, because it was not his name, 
chanced to be employed as the manager of a mine not far 
from the Usumacinto River, the upper reaches of which 
divide the Mexican State of Chiapas from the Republic of 
Guatemala. 

Now life at a mine in Chiapas, though doubtless it has 
some compensations, does not altogether fulfil a European's 
ideal of happiness. To begin with, the work is hard, des- 
perately hard, and though the climate is healthy enough 
among the mountains, there are valleys where men may die 
of fever. Of sport, strictly speaking, there is none, for 
the forests are too dense to hunt in with any comfort, and, 
if they were not, the swarms of venomous insects of vari- 
ous degree, that haunt them, would make this particular 
relaxation impossible. 

Society also, as we understand it, is conspicuous by its 
absence, and should a man chance even to be married, he 
could not well bring his wife into regions that are still 
very unsettled, across forest paths, through rivers, and 

B 



2 HEART OF THE WORLD 

along the brinks of precipices, dangerous and impassable 
enough to strike terror to the heart of the stoutest tra- 
veller. 

When Mr. Jones had dwelt for a year at the mines of 
La Concepcion, the fact of his loneliness, and a desire for 
acquaintances more congenial than the American clerk of the 
stores and his Indian labourers, came home to him with 
some force. During the first months of his residence he had 
attempted to make friends with the owners of some neigh- 
bouring fincas or farms. This attempt, however, he soon 
gave up in disgust, for these men proved to be half-breeds of 
the lowest class, living in an atmosphere of monotonous 
vice. 

In this emergency, being a person of intelligence, Jones 
fell back upon intellectual resources, and devoted him- 
self, so far as his time would allow, to the coUection 
of antiquities, and to the study of such of the numerous 
ruins of pre-Aztec cities and temples as lay within his 
reach. The longer he pursued these researches, the more 
did they fascinate his imagination. Therefore, when he 
chanced to hear that, on the farther side of the mountain, 
at a hacienda called Santa Cruz, there dwelt an Indian, 
Don Ignatio by name, the owner of the hacienda, who was 
reported to have more knowledge of the antiguos, their 
history and relics, than anybody else in this part of 
Mexico, he determined to visit him upon the first oppor- 
tunity. 

This, indeed, he would have done before, for Don Ignatio 
boasted an excellent reputation, had it not been for the 
length of the journey to his home. Now, however, the 
difficulty was lessened by an Indian who offered to point 
out a practicable path over the mountain, which brought 
the hacienda of Santa Cruz to within a three hours' ride 
on mule-back from La Concepcion, in place of the ten hours 
that were necessary to reach it by the more frequented road. 
Accordingly, one day in the dry season, when work was 



PROLOGUE 3 

slack at the mine, owing to the water having fallen too low 
to turn the crushing-mill, Jones started. This was on a 
Saturday, for on the Monday previous he had despatched a 
runner to Don Ignatio announcing his intended visit, and 
received in reply a most courteous and well-written letter, 
begging him to pass the next Sunday at the hacienda, 
" where any English gentleman would always be most wel- 
come." 

As he approached the hacienda, he was astonished to see 
the facade of an enormous white stone building of a semi- 
Moorish style of architecture, having towers and ornamented 
doorways at either end, and a large dome rising from the 
centre of its flat roof. Eiding through the milpas, or corn- 
fields, and groves of cocoa and coffee bushes, all in a perfect 
state of cultivation, which covered many acres on every side 
of the building, Jones came to the gateway of a large patjo, 
or courtyard, where grew several gigantic ceiba trees, throw- 
ing their grateful shade over the mouth of a well. From 
under these trees an Indian appeared, who evidently had 
been watching for his arrival, and, taking the horse, in- 
formed him, with many salutations, that the Senor Ignatio 
was at even- song with his people in the chapel yonder, 
according to his habit, but that the prayers would soon be 
finished. 

Leaving his horse in charge of the Indian, Jones went 
to the chapel, and, its great doors being open, he entered 
and sat down. So soon as his eyes became accustomed 
to the dim light, he perceived that the place was un- 
usually beautiful, both in its proportions and its decora- 
tions. 

The worshippers also were many perhaps they numbered 
three hundred, clearly all of them Indians employed upon 
the estate ; and so intent were they upon their devotions 
that his entry was not even noticed. To his mind, how- 
ever, the most curious object in the building was a slab of 
white marble, let into the wall above the altar, whereon 



4 HEART OF THE WORLD 

the following inscription was engraved in Spanish, in 
letters so large that he had no difficulty in reading it : 

" Dedicated by Ignatio, the Indian, to the memory of 
his most beloved friend, James Strickland, an English 
gentleman, and Maya, Princess of the Heart, his wife, whom 
first he met upon this spot. Pray for their souls, of your 
charity, passer-by." 

While Jones was wondering who this James Strickland, 
and Maya, Princess of the Heart, might be, and whether it 
was his host who had set up the tablet to their memory, the 
priest pronounced his benediction, and the congregation 
began to leave the church. 

The first to pass its doors was an Indian gentleman, 
whom Jones rightly took to be Don Ignatio himself. He 
was a man of about sixty years, but one who looked much 
older than his age, for sorrow, hardship, and suffering had 
left their marks upon him. In person he was tall and 
spare, nor did a slight lameness detract from the dignity 
of his bearing. His dress was very simple and quite innocent 
of the finery and silver buttons which have so much attraction 
for the Mexican mind, consisting as it did of a sombrero of 
Panama straw, with a black ribbon in place of the usual gilt 
cord, a clean white jacket and shirt, a black tie fastened in a 
bow, a pair of drab-coloured trousers, and brown boots of 
European make. 

Indeed, the only really remarkable thing about Don Ignatio 
was his face. Never, thought Jones, had he beheld so beauti- 
ful a countenance, or, to be more accurate, one that gave him 
such assurance of its owner's absolute goodness and purity of 
nature. The features were those of a high-bred Indian, thin 
and delicately cut ; the nose aquiline, the cheek-bones and 
brow prominent, while beneath the latter shone a pair of 
large and soft black eyes, so tender and trustful in their ex- 
pression that they seemed almost out of place in the face of 
a man. 



PROLOGUE 5 

lie stood by the door of the chapel, in the light of the 
setting sun, leaning somewhat heavily on a stick, while 
the Indians filed past" him. Every one of these, man, 
woman, and child, saluted him with the utmost reverence 
as they went, some of them, especially the children, kiss- 
ing his long and finely-shaped hand when they bade him 
good-night in terms of affection, such as "father," and 
called on the Saints to guard him. Jones, watching them, 
reflected upon the difference of their attitude from that 
of the crouching servility which centuries of oppression 
have induced in their race towards any master of white 
blood, and wondered to what his host's influence over 
them was due. It was at this moment that Don Ignatio 
turned and saw him. 

"A thousand pardons, sefior," he said in Spanish, with 
a shy and singularly engaging smile as he lifted his som- 
brero, showing his long hair, which, like his pointed beard, 
was almost white. " You must indeed have thought me 
rude, but it is my custom at the end of the week's work 
to attend worship with the peons do not press round the 
noble Inglese, my children also I did not think that you 
would arrive before the sun was down." 

" Pray don't apologise, sefior," answered Jones ; " I 
have been much interested in watching all your servants at 
their devotions. What a beautiful chapel this is ! May I 
look at it before you shut the doors ? " 

"Certainly, sefior. Like the rest of the house, it is 
fine. The old monks who designed it two hundred years 
ago for this was a great monastery knew how to 
build, and labour was forced in those days and cost 
nothing. Of course I have repaired it a great deal, for 
those who lived here before me did not trouble about such 
things. 

"You would scarcely think, sefior, that in the old days, 
twenty years ago, this place was a nest of highway robbers, 
smugglers, and man-slayers, and that these people whom 



6 HEART OF THE WORLD 

you see to-night, or their fathers, were slaves with no more 
rights than a dog. 

" But so it was. Many a traveller has lost his life in 
this house or its neighbourhood. I, myself, was nearly 
murdered here once. Look at the carving of that altar- 
piece. It is fine, is it not ? Those sapote wood columns 
date from the time of the old monks. Well, I have known 
Don Pedro Moreno, my predecessor, tie human beings to 
them in order to brand them with red-hot irons." 

" To whom does that inscription refer ? " asked Jones, 
pointing to the marble slab which has been described. 

Don Ignatio's face grew very sad as he answered : 

" It refers, sefior, to the greatest friend I ever had, the 
man who saved my life at the risk of his own when I came 
by this limp, and one who was dear to me with a love 
passing the love of woman. But there was a woman 
who loved him also, an Indian woman too, and he cared 
for her more than he did for me, as was right, for has 
not God decreed that a man should leave his friends, 
yes, his father and mother even, and cleave unto his 
wife?" 

" He married her then ?" said Jones, who was growing 
interested. 

" Oh, yes ; he married her, and in a strange place and 
fashion. But it is an old story, seflor, and with your per- 
mission I will not tell it ; even to think of it revives too 
many painful memories, memories of death and loss, and 
disappointed ambition, and high hopes unfulfilled. Per- 
haps, one day, if I have the coilrage and live long enough, 
I will write it all down. Indeed, some years ago I made a 
beginning, but it wearied me, and what I wrote seemed 
foolishness, so I gave up the task. 

" I have lived a rough life, sefior, and met with many 
adventures in it, though, thanks be to God, my last years 
have been spent in peace. Well, well, it is coming to an 
end now, and were it not for the thought that my people 



PROLOGUE 7 

here may fall into evil hands when I am gone, that would 
not trouble me. 

" But come, seftor, you are hungry, and the good father, 
who has promised to eat with us, must ride to-night to 
celebrate a mass to-morrow at a village three leagues away, 
so I have ordered supper early. The porter with your bag 
arrived safely ; it has been placed in your chamber, the 
Abbot's room it is called, and if you will follow me I will 
show you a short path to it from the chapel/' 

Then he led the way to a little door in the wall. Un- 
locking this door, they passed up some narrow stairs, at 
the head of which was a landing-place with a window, or 
rather grille, so arranged that, while it was invisible from 
below, an observer standing there could hear and see all 
that passed in the chapel. 

" This was the place," said Don Ignatio, " whence the 
old abbots kept secret watch upon the monks, and it was 
here that once I saw a sight which I am not likely to for- 
get." 

Then he passed on through several long and intricate 
passages, till he came to a sitting-room filled with hand- 
some old Spanish furniture. 

" Your sleeping-place lies beyond, seflor," he said, open- 
ing another door that led into a large and dreary-looking 
chamber, lighted by heavily-barred windows, of which the 
sills were not less than ten feet from the ground. 

On the walls were frescoes of the Last Judgment, and of 
scenes inspired by the bloody drama of the Inquisition, 
grim to look on and somewhat injured by damp, but ex- 
ecuted with great power and vivid, if distorted, imagi- 
nation. Below the centre window, and reaching to within 
three feet of the floor, was an ancient full-length portrait 
of one of the abbots of the monastery, life-size and painted 
in oils upon a panel, representing a man of fierce and evil 
countenance, over whose tonsured head the Holy Spirit 
was shown hovering in the shape of a dove. For the rest, 



8 HEART OF THE WORLD 

the room was well, if lightly, furnished, and boasted the 
luxury of squares of matting laid upon the brick floor. 

" I fear that you will think this but a dismal apartment, 
seilor," said Don Ignatio, " still it is our guest-chamber ; 
moreover, there is a room attached which I thought might 
be useful to you to write in, should you wish to do so. 
The people here say that the place is haunted, but I know 
you Englishmen do not bother about such things. It is 
not wonderful, however, that they talk thus, seeing that 
murders were done in this chamber in the time of Don 
Pedro Moreno. Indeed, he laid a plot to kill me and my 
friend here, and, though he did not succeed in that in- 
stance, when I came into possession afterwards, I found 
several skeletons beneath the floor two of them, I remem- 
ber, just where the bed stands now and gave them decent 
burial." 

Jones, as in honour bound, declared himself to be totally 
indifferent to representations of tortures of the Inquisition, 
memories of departed abbots, skeletons of murdered men 
beneath the floor, ghosts, and hoc genus omne. TStill, 
though he never confessed it to his host, his first night in 
the abbot's chamber, owing probably to the strong coffee 
which he had drunk, was not altogether a pleasant experi- 
ence. In after days, however, he became well accustomed 
to the place, and, indeed, preferred it to any other room in 
the hacienda. 

In contrast to the rude and ill-dressed fare with which 
Jones was fain to satisfy himself at the mine, Don Ignatio's 
supper was a feast worthy of Epicurus, especially as it was 
free from the horrible messes, compounded of oil and the 
inward parts of animals, that figure so largely in Mexican 
cookery. 

After their meal, cigars and black coffee were handed 
round, of which the raw materials had been grown on the 
estate, and never in his life did Jones smoke better tobac- 
co. When the padre a gentle and well-informed man 



PROLOGUE 9 

had departed, Jones began to speak of the antiquities of 
the country. Soon he found that his host's knowledge of 
the subject had not been exaggerated, seeing that he was 
even able to decipher hieroglyphic writings of which the 
key was supposed to be lost, and to give an outline of the 
history of the races who built the great temples and pal- 
aces, whereof so many ruins are to be found in the Pa- 
lenque district. 

" It is sad to think," said Jones presently, "that noth- 
ing in which the breath of life remains is left of all this 
civilisation. If only the old legend of the Golden City, 
hidden away somewhere in the unexplored recesses of Cen- 
tral America, were true, I think that I would give ten 
years of my existence to visit it. It would be a glorious 
thing to step back into the past, to see a system at work, 
and mingle with a people of which the world has lost all 
count and knowledge ; for, let the imagination be active 
as it will, it is practically impossible to reconstruct these 
things from ruins and traditions. In fact, Don Ignatio, I do 
not understand how it is that you, who have never seen the 
antiguos in the flesh, can talk about them so certainly." 

" If I had never seen them, sefior," he answered, quiet- 
ly, " it would be wonderful. Indeed, you might be justi- 
fied in setting me down as a teller of tales, but it chances 
that I have seen the Golden City of fable and its civilisa- 
tion, and I can assure you that its wonders were far great- 
er than any that have been told of in legend, or even by 
the Spanish romancers." 

"What \" gasped Jones, "what ! Have I been drink- 
ing too much of your excellent wine ? Am I asleep, or did 
I hear you say that you, the gentleman sitting before me, 
with your own eyes had seen the secret city of the In- 
dians ? " 

" You heard me say so, seflor, though I did not in the 
least expect you to believe me. Indeed, it is because I can- 
not bear to be thought a liar, that I have never said any- 



10 HEART OF THE WORLD 

thing of this story, and for this same reason I shall not re- 
peat it to you, since I do not wish that one whom I hope 
will become my friend should hold me in contempt. 

" In truth I am sorry that I have spoken so freely, but, 
in support of my veracity, I will beg you to remember that 
among the huge forests, wildernesses, and sierras of Cen- 
tral America, where no white man has set his foot, and 
whence the Indians vanished generations since, there is 
room for many ancient cities. Why, seflor, within two 
hundred miles or less of where we sit to-night, there exist 
tribes of Lacandones, or unbaptised Indians, who have 
never seen a white man and who still follow their fathers' 
faiths. No, seflor, that story shall never be told, at any 
rate in my lifetime, for I have nothing to show in proof of 
it, or at least only one thing " 

" What is it ? " asked Jones, eagerly. 

"You shall see if you wish, seflor/' his host answered, 
and left the room. 

Presently he returned with a little leather bag from 
which he extracted a very curious and beautiful ornament. 
It was a great emerald, by far the largest that Jones had 
ever seen, uncut, but highly polished. This stone, which 
was set in pure gold, obviously had formed the clasp of a 
belt and could also be used as a seal ; for on it, cut in in- 
taglio, was the mask of a solemn and death-like human face 
surrounded by a hieroglyphic inscription, while on the re- 
verse were other hieroglyphics. 

"Can you read this writing ?" asked Jones, when he 
had examined the ornament. 

" Yes, sefior. The words in front are : ' Eyes and 
Mouth, look on me, plead for me.' And those on the 
back : ' Heart of Heaven, be thou my home.' ' 

"It is wonderful/' said Jones, restoring the relic with 
a sigh, for he would have given everything that he had, 
down to his shoes, to possess it. " And now will you not 
make an exception in my favour, and tell me the story ? " 




'Can you read this writing P" 



PROLOGUE II 

"I fear that I cannot oblige you, seflor," Don Ignatio 
answered, shaking his head. 

"But," pleaded Jones, " having revealed so much, it is 
cruel to hide the rest." 

" Seflor," said his host, " will you take some more cof- 
fee ? No. Then shall we walk a little on the roof and 
look at the view ; it is pretty by moonlight, and the roofs 
here are wonderful, all built of solid stone ; there is a tra- 
dition that the old monks used to dine on them in summer. 
They have a loop-holed wall round them whence that ab- 
bot, whose portrait hangs in your sleeping-chamber, beat 
back a great attack of the Indians whom his oppression 
stirred into rebellion. 

" To-morrow I shall hope to show you round the lands, 
which have repaid me well for my twenty years of cultiva- 
tion. Everybody in Mexico runs after mines, but its soil 
is the richest mine of all. I knew that, and, seeing the 
capacities of the place, I sold the other emeralds which 
went with this clasp they were fine stones, but unen- 
graved, and therefore of no particular interest and bought 
it cheap enough. Now that the country is more settled, 
and I have planted so much, its value has become great, 
and will be greater still when all the young cocoa bushes 
are in full bearing a few years hence. 

" There, thanks be to the Saints, the stair is done of 
late my back hurts me when I climb up steps. The air is 
sweet, is it not, seflor, and the prospect pleasing ? Look, 
the river shines like silver. Ah ! how beautiful is God's 
world ! It makes me sad to think of leaving it, but doubt- 
less He will provide still finer places for us to work and 
serve Him in, gardens where sin and grief cannot enter. 
Surely there is room enough yonder," and he nodded 
toward the sky. 

This was but the first of many nights that Jones spent 
under Don Ignatio's hospitable roof, where, as the months 



12 HEART OF THE WORLD 

went by, he grew more and more welcome. Soon he con- 
ceived a great affection for the grave, sweet-natured, kind- 
ly old Indian gentleman, whose mind seemed to be incapa- 
ble of any evil thought, and whose chief ambitions were to 
improve his land and do good to all about him, more espe- 
cially to his Indian servants or peons. 

In the beginning of their intimacy they made several 
expeditions together to inspect ruins in the neighbourhood, 
and once Don Ignatio came to stay with him at the mine 
of La Concepcion, where his visit proved of the greatest 
use to Mr. Jones and the company he served. One of the 
difficulties in working this particular mine lay in the scar- 
city of labour. At a word from Don Ignatio this trouble 
vanished. He sent for a cacique, who lived in the moun- 
tains, and spoke to him, and, lo ! within a week, fifty stal- 
wart Indians appeared to offer their services at the mine, 
thus affording one of many instances that came to Jones's 
knowledge, of his friend's extraordinary influence among 
the natives. 

As time went on, however, these excursions ceased, since 
Don Ignatio's health grew too feeble to allow him to leave 
the hacienda. 

At length, it was when they had been acquainted for 
nearly two years, a messenger arrived at the mine one 
morning, saying that he was instructed by his master, Don 
Ignatio, to tell the Sefior Jones that he lay dying and 
would be glad to see him. He was to add, however, that 
if it should be in any way inconvenient, the Sefior Jones 
must not trouble himself to come for so small a matter, 
as his master had written a letter which would be delivered, 
to him after his death. 

Needless to say the Sefior Jones travelled across the 
mountains as fast as the best mule he owned would carry 
him. On arriving at the hacienda he found Don Ignatio 
lying in his room, almost paralysed and very weak, but per- 
fectly clear-headed and rejoiced to see him. 



PROLOGUE 13 

" I am about to make my last journey, friend/' he said, 
" and I am glad, for of late I have suffered a great deal of 
pain in my back, the result of an ancient injury. Also it is 
time that a helpless old man should make room for a more 
active one." And he looked at his visitor strangely, and 
smiled. 

Jones, whose feelings were touched, made the usual re- 
ply as to his having many months to live, but Don Ignatio 
cut him short. 

" Don't waste time like that, friend," he said, " but lis- 
ten. Ever since we knew each other you have been trying 
to extract from me the story of how I came to visit the city, 
Heart of the World, and of my friend, James Strickland, 
whom, thanks be to God, I so soon shall see again. 

"Well, I never would tell it to you, though once or 
twice I nearly did so when I saw how my silence chagrined 
you, partly because I pride myself upon being able to keep 
a secret when pressed to reveal it, and also because I am 
selfish and knew that so soon as you had heard my story, 
you would cease to interest yourself in a stupid, failing old 
man, for who is there that cares about the rind when he 
has sucked the orange ? 

" Also there were other reasons : for instance, I could not 
have related that history without displaying unseemly 
emotion, and I know that you Englishmen despise such ex- 
hibitions. Lastly, if I told it at all, I desired to tell it fully 
and carefully, keeping everything in proportion, and this 
it would have been difficult to do by word of mouth. Yet 
I have not wished to disappoint you altogether, and I have 
wished that some record of the curious things which I have 
seen in my life should be preserved, though this last desire 
alone would not have been sufficiently strong to move me 
to the task which I finished ten days ago, before the par- 
alysis crept into my arm. 

" May I trouble you to open that cupboard near the foot 
of the bed, and to give me the pile of writing that you 



1 4 HEART OF THE WORLD 

will find in it. A thousand thanks. Here, sefior, in these 
pages, if you care to take the trouble to read them, is set 
out an account of how I and my English friend came to 
visit the Golden City, of what we saw and suffered there, 
and of some other matters which you may think super- 
fluous, but that are not without their bearing upon the 
tale. I fear that my skill in writing is small, still perhaps 
it may serve its turn, and if not, it matters nothing, seeing 
that you seek the spirit, not the letter, and are not suffi- 
cient of a Spanish scholar to be too critical. 

"Now take the book and put it away, for the very sight 
of it wearies me, recalling the hours of labour that I have 
spent on it. Also I wish to talk of something more im- 
portant. Tell me, friend, do you propose to stop in this 
country, or to return to England ? " 

" Return to England ! Why, I should starve where 
there are no mines to manage. No, I am too poor." 

" Then would you return if you were rich ? " asked the 
dying man anxiously. 

" I do not know ; it depends. But I think that I have 
been too long away to go to live in England for good." 

" I am glad to hear that, friend, for I may as well tell 
you at once that I have made you my heir, so that hence- 
forth you will be a wealthy man as we understand wealth 
in this country." 

"You have made me your heir !" stammered Jones. 

" Yes. Why should I not ? I like you well, and know 
you to be a good and honest man. I have no relations and 
no friends, and, above all, I am sure that you will deal 
justly and gently by my people here, for I have watched 
your bearing towards those who work under you at the 
mine. Moreover, I have conditions to make which will 
not be the less binding on you because they are not set out 
in the will, namely, that you should live here yourself and 
carry on the work that I have begun, for so long as may 
be possible, and that, if you are forced to sell the place by 



HO IV THE PLOT FAILED 1 5 

any nnforeseen circumstance, or to leave it away by testa- 
ment, you should do so to an Englishman only, and one 
of whom you know something. Do you accept ? " 
" Indeed, yes, and I know not how to thank you." 
" Do not thank me at all, thank your own character and 
honest face which have led me to believe that I can make 
no better disposal of my property. And now go, for I am 
tired, but come to see me again to-morrow morning after 
the priest has left." 

So Jones, who had entered that room possessed of a hard- 
earned eight hundred a year, departed from it the owner 
of a property which, before long, became worth as many 
thousands annually, as any who have visited him at Santa 
Cruz can testify. Three days later Don Ignatio passed 
away peacefully, and was laid to his rest in the chapel of 
the hacienda. 

This, then, was how the story of the city, Heart of the 
World, and of Don Ignatio and his friend, James Strick- 
land, who saw it, came into the hands of him whom we 
have called Jones. 

Here follows a translation of the manuscript. 



CHAPTER I 

HOW THE PLOT FAILED 

I, IGXATIO, the writer of this history, being now a man 
in my sixty-second year, was born in a village among the 
mountains that lie between the little towns of Pichaucalco 
and Tiapa. Of all that district my father was the hered- 
itary cacique, and the Indians there loved him much. 
When I was a lad, perhaps nine years old, troubles arose 

c 



IG HEART OF THE WORLD 

in the country. I never quite understood them, or I may 
have forgotten the circumstances, for such things were 
always happening, but I think that they were caused by 
some tax which the government at Mexico had imposed 
upon us unjustly. Anyhow, my father, a tall man with 
fiery eyes, refused to pay a tax, and, after a while, a body 
of soldiers arrived, mounted upon horses, who shot down 
a great number of the people, and took away some of the 
women and children. 

Of my father they made a prisoner, and next day they 
led him out while my mother and I were forced to look 
on, and sat him by the edge of a hole that they had dug, 
holding guns to his head and threatening to shoot him 
unless he would tell them a secret which they were anxious 
to learn. All he said, however, was that he wished that they 
would kill him at once, and so free him from the torment of 
the mosquitoes which hummed around him. 

But they did not kill him then, and that night they put 
him back in a prison, where I was brought to visit him by 
the padre, Ignatio, his cousin and my godfather. I re- 
member that he was shut up in a dirty place, so hot that it 
was difficult even to breathe, and that there were some 
drunken Mexican soldiers outside the door, who now and 
again threatened to make an end of us Indian dogs. 

My godfather, the priest Ignatio, confessed my father in 
a corner of the cell, and took something from his hand. 
Then my father called me to him and kissed me, and with 
his own fingers for a few moments he hung about my neck 
that thing which the priest had taken from him, only to 
remove it again and give it to Ignatio for safe-keeping, 
saying: "See that the boy has it, and its story with it, 
when he comes of age/' 

Now my father kissed me again, blessing me in the 
name of God, and as he did so great tears ran down his 
face. Then the priest Ignatio took me away, and I never 
saw my father any more, for the soldiers shot him next 



HOW THE PLOT FAILED 17 

morning, and threw his body into the hole that they had 
dug to receive it. 

After this, my godfather, cousin, and namesake, Igna- 
tio, took me and my mother to the little town of Tiapa, of 
which he was priest, but she soon died there of a broken 
heart. 

In Tiapa we lived in the best house in the place, for it 
was built of stone and set upon a bank overhanging a beau- 
tiful rushing river with water that was always clear as glass, 
however much it rained, which river ran a hundred feet or 
more below the windows. 

About Tiapa there is little to say, except that in those 
days the people were for the most part thieves, and such 
great sinners that my cousin, the padre, would not shrive 
some of them, even on their death-beds. There was a 
church, however, whereof the roof was overgrown with the 
most beautiful orchids. Also the roads were so bad that, 
except in the dry season, it was difficult to travel either to 
or from the town. 

Here in this forgotten place I grew up, but not without 
education, as might have been expected, seeing that my 
cousin was a good scholar, and did all he could to keep me 
out of mischief. 

When I was about fifteen years of age, of a sudden a de- 
sire took hold of me to become a priest. It was in this 
wise : One Sunday evening I sat in the church at Tiapa, 
looking now at the sprays of orchid flowers that swung to 
and fro in the breeze outside the window, and now at the 
votive pictures on the walls, offerings made by men and 
women who had called upon their patron saints in the hour 
of danger and had been rescued by them here from fire, 
there from murderers, and here again from drowning ; rude 
and superstitious daubs, but doubtless acceptable to God, 
who could see' in them the piety and gratitude of those 
that out of their penury had caused them to be painted. 

As I sat thus idly, my godfather, the good priest, began 



1 8 HEART OF THE WORLD 

to preach. Now, it chanced that two nights before 
there had been a dreadful murder in Tiapa. Three travel- 
lers and a boy, the son of one of them, passing from San 
Christobel to the coast, stopped to spend the night at a 
house near our OAvn. With them they brought a mule-load 
of dollars, the price of the merchandise that they had sold 
at San Christobel, which some of our fellow-townsmen, 
half-breeds of wicked life, determined to steal. 

Accordingly, to the number of ten, these assassins broke 
into the house where the travellers lodged, and, meeting 
with resistance, they cut down the three of them with ma- 
chetes, and possessed themselves of the silver. Just as they 
were leaving, one of the thieves perceived the boy hiding 
beneath a bed, and, dragging him out, they killed him 
also, lest he should bear witness against them. 

Now, those who had done this deed of shame were well 
known in the town ; still none were arrested, for they 
bribed the officers with part of their booty. But my god- 
father, seeing some of them present in the church, took for 
his text the commandment " Thou shalt do no murder." 

Never have I heard a finer sermon ; indeed, before it was 
finished, two of the men rose and rept from the church 
conscience-stricken, and when the preacher described the 
slaughter of the lad whom their wicked hands had of a 
sudden hurled into eternity, many of the congregation 
burst into tears. 

I tell this story because it was then for the first time, 
as I thought of the murdered boy, who some few days be- 
fore had been as full of life as I was myself, that I came to 
know what death meant, and to understand that I also 
must die and depart for ever either into heaven or hell. I 
shook as the thought struck me, and it seemed to me that 
I saw Death standing at my elbow, as he stands to-day, and 
then and there I determined that I would be a priest and 
do good all my life, in order that I might find peace at the 
last and escape the fate of the evil. 



HOW THE PLOT FAILED 19 

On the morrow I went into my godfather's room and told 
him of my desire. He listened to me attentively, and 
answered : "I would that it might be so, my son, holding 
as I do that the things of the world to come outweigh 
those of this present earth ten thousandfold, but it cannot 
be, for reasons that you shall learn when you are older. 
Then, when my trust is ended, you may make your choice, 
and, if you still wish it, become a priest." 

Five more years passed away, during which time I grew 
strong and active, and skilled in all manly exercises. Also 
I studied much under the teaching of my godfather, who 
sent even to Spain to buy me books. 

Among these books were many histories of my own race, 
the Indians, and of their conquest by the Spaniards, all 
that had been published indeed. Of such histories I 
never tired, although it maddened me to read of the mis- 
fortunes and cruel oppression of my people, who to-day 
were but a nation of slaves. 

At length, on my twentieth birthday, my godfather, who 
now was grown very old and feeble, called me into his 
chamber, and, having locked the door, he spoke to me 
thus : 

" My son, the time has come when I must deliver to you 
the last messages of your beloved father, my cousin and 
best friend, who was murdered by the soldiers when you 
were a little child, and tell you of your descent and other 
matters. 

" First, then, you must know that you are of royal and 
ancient blood, for your forefather in the eleventh degree 
was none other than Guatemoc, the last of the Aztec em- 
perors, whom the Spaniards murdered, which descent I can 
prove to you by means of old writings and pedigrees ; also 
it is known and attested among the Indians, who even now 
do not forget the stock whence sprang their kings." 

" Then by right I am Emperor of Mexico," I said 



20 HEART OF THE WORLD 

proudly, for in my folly it seemed a fine tiling to be sprang 
from men who once had worn a crown. 

"Alas ! my son," the old priest answered sadly, "in this 
world might is the only right, and the Spaniards ended 
that of your forefathers long ago by aid of torture and 
the noose. Save that it will earn you reverence among 
the Indians, it is but a barren honour which you inherit 
with your blood. 

" Yet there is one thing that has come down to you 
from your ancestor, Guatemoc, and the monarchs who 
ruled before him. Perchance you remember that on the 
night previous to his death, your father set an amulet up- 
on your neck, and, removing it again, gave it to me to keep. 
Here is that amulet. " 

Then he handed me a trinket made of the half of a heart- 
shaped emerald, smooth with wear, but unpolished, that, 
if joined to its missing section, would have been as large as 
a dove's egg. This stone was not broken, but cut from the 
top to the bottom, the line of separation being so cunning- 
ly sawn that no man, unless he had one half before him, 
could imitate the other. The charm was bored through 
so as to be worn upon a chain, and engraved upon its sur- 
face were some strange hieroglyphics and the outline of 
half a human face. 

"What is it?" Tasked. 

The old priest shrugged his shoulders, and answered : 

" A relic which had to do with their wicked heathen 
magic and rites, I suppose. I know little about it, except 
that your father told me it was the most valued possession 
of the Aztec kings, and that the natives believe that when 
the two halves of this stone come together, the men of 
white blood will be driven from Central America and an 
Indian emperor shall rule from sea to sea." 

" And where is the other half, father ? " 

"How should I know," he answered testily, "who have 
no faith in such stories, or in stones with the heads of 



HO IV THE PLOT FAILED 21 

idols graven upon them ? I am a priest, and therefore 
your father told me little of the matter, since it is not law- 
ful that I should belong to secret societies. Still, some 
such society exists, and, in virtue of the ownership of that 
talisman, you will be head of it, as your ancestors were be- 
fore you, though, so far as I can learn, the honour brought 
them but little luck. 

" I know no more about it, but I will give you letters to 
a certain Indian who lives in the district of which your 
father was cacique, and, when you show him the stone, 
doubtless he will initiate you into its mysteries, though I 
counsel you to have nothing to do with them. 

" Listen, Ignatio, my son, you are a rich man ; how rich 
I cannot tell you, but for many generations your fore- 
fathers have hidden up treasure for an object which I must 
explain, and the gold will be handed over to you by those 
of your clan in whose keeping it is. It was because of 
this treasure that your father and your great-grandfather 
were done to death with many others, since the rumour of 
it came to the ears of those that ruled in Mexico, who, 
when they failed to force its secret from them, tormented 
and killed them in their rage. 

" Now, this was the message of your father to you con- 
cerning the wealth which he and his ancestors had hidden : 

" ' Tell my son, Ignatio, should he live to grow up, that 
there has never departed from our family the desire to win 
back the crown that Gruatemoc lost, or at least to drive out 
the accursed Spaniards and their spawn, and to establish 
an Indian Eepublic. To this end we have heaped up 
wealth for generations, that it might serve us when the 
hour was ripe ; and because of this wealth, of which the 
whisper could not altogether be hid in a land which is full 
of spies, some of us have come to cruel deaths, as I am 
about to do to-night. 

" ' But I shall die keeping my secret, and when my son 
grows up others may rule at Mexico, or the matter may 



22 HEART OF THE WORLD 

have been forgotten : at least the gold will be where I left 
it. Now, say to my son that it is my hope that he will 
use it in the cause to further which it has been amassed ; 
that he will devote his life to the humbling of our white 
masters, and to the uplifting, of the race which for cen- 
turies they have robbed, murdered, and enslaved. 

" 'Nevertheless, say to him that I lay no commands up- 
on him as to these matters, seeing that he must follow his 
own will about them, for I cannot forget that, from genera- 
tion to generation, those who went before him have reaped 
nothing but disaster in their struggle against the white 
devils, whom, because of the sins and idolatry of our fore- 
fathers, it has pleased God to set over us/ 

"Those were your father's words, my son, which he 
spoke to me in the hour of his murder. And now you will 
understand why I said that you must wait before you de- 
termined to be a priest. If that is still your wish, it can 
be fulfilled, for your father left it to you to follow what- 
ever life you might desire." 

When he had finished speaking I thought for a while, 
and answered : "So long as my father's blood is un- 
avenged I cannot become a priest." 

" It is as I feared," said the old man with a sigh, " that 
cursed talisman which lies about your neck has begun its 
work with you, Ignatio, and you will tread the path that 
the others trod, perchance to die in blood as they died. 
Oh ! why cannot man be content to leave the righting of 
wrongs and the destinies of nations in the hands of the 
Almighty and His angels ?" 

" Because for good or evil the Almighty chooses men to 
be His instruments," I answered. 

Within a week from this day some Indians came to 
Tiapa disguised as porters, whose mission it was to lead me 
to the mountains among which my father had lived, and 
where his treasure still lay hidden. 



HOW THE PLOT FAILED 23 

Bidding farewell to my godparent, the priest, who wept 
when he parted from me, I started upon my journey, keep- 
ing my destination secret. As it chanced, I never saw him 
more, for a month later he was seized with some kind of 
calentura, or fever, and died suddenly. The best thing I 
can say of him is that, with one exception, there lives no 
man in heaven above whom I so greatly desire to meet 
again. 

On the third day of my journey we reached a narrow 
pass in the mountains, beyond which lay an Indian village. 
Here my guides took me to the house of one Antonio, to 
whom the padre Ignatio had given me letters, an old man 
of venerable aspect, who greeted me warmly, and made 
me known to several caciques who were staying with him, 
I knew not why. 

So soon as we were alone in the house, one of these 
caciques, after addressing me in words which I could not 
understand, asked me if I had a "Heart." To this I re- 
plied that I hoped so, whereat they all laughed. Then 
the man Antonio, coming to me, unbuttoned my shirt, re- 
vealing the talisman that had belonged to my father, and 
at the sight of it the company bowed. 

Next the doors were locked, and, sentries having been 
posted before them, a ceremony began, which even now it 
is not lawful that I should describe in detail. On this 
solemn occasion I was first initiated into the mysteries of 
the Order of the Heart, and afterwards installed as its 
hereditary chief, thus becoming, while yet a boy, the abso- 
lute lord of many thousand men, brethren of our Society, 
who were scattered far and wide about the land. 

On the day after I had taken the final oaths, Antonio 
handed over to me the treasure- that my ancestors hoarded 
in a secret place, which my father had left in his keeping, 
and it was a great treasure, amounting to more than a 
million dollars in value. 

Now I was rich/ both in men and money, still, following 



24 HEART OF THE WORLD 

the counsel of Antonio, I abode for a while in the village, 
receiving those who came from every part of Mexico to 
visit me as Holder of the Heart, and as first in rank among 
the fallen peoples of the Indians. 

It was during these months that I made the great error 
of my life. Some three miles from the village where I 
dwelt, lived two sisters, Indian ladies of noble blood, 
though poor, one of them a widow, and the other a very 
beautiful girl, younger than myself. It chanced that, rid- 
ing past their house upon a certain Sunday evening, when 
most of the inhabitants of the valley were away at a festa, 
I heard screams coming from it. 

Dismounting from my horse I ran in at the door, which 
was open, and saw one of the sisters, the widow, lying 
dead upon the ground, while two bandits, Mexicans, were 
attacking the younger woman. Drawing my machete, 1 
cut down the first of them before he had time to turn, 
then I fell upon the second man with such fury that I 
drove him back against the wall. Seeing that his life was 
in danger, he called upon me not to kill him for the sake 
of a low Indian girl, which insult maddened me so that I 
slew him upon the spot, and caused his body, with that of 
his companion, to be buried secretly. 

It happened that after this the girl whose life 1 had 
saved came to dwell in my village, where I saw much of 
her. So lovely was she and so clever, that soon she won 
my heart, and the end of it was that, being headstrong and 
in love, I married her, against the advice of Antonio and 
others of my brethren of the Order. It would have been 
better for the Indian people, and perhaps for me also, if I 
had died before I stood at the altar with this woman, 
though for a while she was a good wife, and, because of her 
cleverness, of great service to me at that time. 

Now, it must be stated that during all these months I had 
not been idle. The more I thought on them, the more 
the wrongs of my countrymen, the re'al owners of the 



HOW THE PLOT FAILED 25 

land, took hold of my mind, till at length they possessed 
it utterly, and I became an enthusiast and a dreamer. 
This was the object of my life to form a great conspiracy, 
which should bring about a rising of the Indians in every 
province of Mexico upon a given day ; then, when the 
Spaniards and their bastards, the Spanish Mexicans, had 
been stamped out, to re-establish the Empire of the 
Aztecs. 

It was a madness, perhaps, but the madness lurked in 
my blood ; my forefathers had suffered from and for it, 
and I think that it must have come down to us from our 
ancestor, Guatemoc, the greatest and most unfortunate 
Indian who ever lived. Where they failed I determined to 
succeed, and, strange to say, in the end I went near to 
success. 

For years I laboured, travelling to and fro about the 
land till there was no province where I was not known as 
the Holder of the Heart, and the chief by blood of the 
Indian tribes. Everywhere I strove to rouse the people 
from their sloth, and to win the caciques, or head men, to 
the cause, and I did not strive in vain. I used my great 
wealth to buy arms, to gain over the lukewarm with bribes, 
and in many other ways. When my fortune sank low I 
gathered more, for without gold nothing could be done. 
Treasures that were buried in the old days were given up to 
me as Lord of the Heart by those who had their secret ; also 
many brought me money, each what he could spare, and I 
hoarded it against the hour of need. 

For a year or more I was the greatest power in Mexico, 
and yet, though hundreds were privy to my plot, it was so 
well hidden that no whisper of it came to the ears of the 
Government. At length all was ready, and so carefully were 
my plans laid that success seemed certain ; but the unforeseen 
happened, and I failed thus : 

That woman whose life I had saved, my own wife whom 
I loved and trusted, who was bound to my cause and that 



26 HEART. OF THE WORLD 

of her countrymen by every tie human and divine, betrayed 
me and it. Just before the time fixed for the rising, it was 
agreed that she should be placed, as one of whom we could 
be sure, to play the part of a servant in the house of the 
man who ruled Mexico in those days, that she might spy 
upon him. 

Instead of so doing, she, my wife, fell in love with him. 
It is easy to guess the rest. One night, but a week before 
the appointed time, I and some five or six others, the 
leaders of our party, were seized. My companions were 
made away with secretly, but I was brought before the 
great man, who received me alone, holding a pistol in 
his hand. 

"I know all your plans, friend, " he said, "and I con- 
gratulate you on them, for they were cleverly managed. I 
know also that you have a great treasure in gold hidden 

away " and he named the sum. " That wife of yours, 

whom you were fool enough to trust, has told me every- 
thing, but she cannot tell me where the money is hidden, 
for this you withheld from her, which shows that you are 
not altogether mad. 

" Now, friend, T make you a fair offer hand over this 
treasure, and you shall go free of course when the day of 
vengeance is past and your sheep have found themselves 
without a shepherd nor shall you be molested afterwards. 
Refuse to do so, and you will be brought to trial and die as 
you deserve." 

"How can you promise for others?"! asked. "You 
are not the only white man who would have fallen." 

" I can promise for others, first, because I am their mas- 
ter, and, secondly, because nobody but myself knows any- 
thing of this matter, since, if I told them, I must also 
share your wealth with them, and that, friend, I mean to 
keep. Give it up to me and you may go and plot against 
my successors and the Government of Mexico as much as 
pleases you, and take your wife with you for aught I care ; 



HOW THE PLOT FAILED 2/ 

for, friend, having earned so comfortable a competence, I 
propose to leave a land where, as this business proves, peo- 
ple in authority are too apt to have their throats cut. Now 
choose, and be so good as to stand quite still while you are 
thinking the matter over, or I may be forced to shoot you/' 

" How about my associates ? " I asked. 

' ' I believe that three or four of them have been carried 
off by typhus within the last day or two, the prisons 
here are so unhealthy ; but I am sure that if the gold is 
forthcoming, no more will sicken." 

Then I chose, for I thought to myself that I might get 
more gold, but I could never get another life, and if I died 
many must suffer with me and all my hopes for the future 
of the Indian race would come to naught. Also I knew 
this villain to be a man of his word, and that what he 
promised he would fulfil. 

Within ten days he had the money, and I was free to 
begin my life again, nor did any of those who were doomed 
to perish in it, learn the tale of the plot that had threat- 
ened them. 

I was free ; but what a freedom was this, when I had 
lost everything save the breath that God placed in my nos- 
trils, and, perhaps, my honour. The great house that I 
had builded was fallen to the ground, the moneys I had 
amassed were stolen, the chief of my companions were 
dead, my credit as a deliverer of the people was gone, and 
my cause had become hopeless. All these things had come 
upon me because of a woman, a traitress, whom I had 
nurtured in my bosom. 

At first I was dazed, but when I came to understand I 
swore a great oath before Heaven that, for her false sake, I 
would hate and renounce her sex ; that, whatever might be 
the temptation, never again would I look kindly upon women, 
or have to do with one of them in word, or thought, or deed. 
That oath, so far as lay in my power, I have kept to this day, 
and I hope to keep through all eternity. 



28 HEART OF THE WORLD 

It may be asked what became of my wife. I do not 
know. I lifted no hand against her who was flesh of my 
flesh, but she perished. The story was known. I was 
forced to tell it to clear myself. After I escaped from the 
prison I lay ill for many weeks, and when I recovered she 
was gone. Others had been betrayed besides myself, and 
doubtless some of them had wreaked fitting vengeance on 
her. What it was I never asked. 

For many years twenty perhaps I became a wanderer. 
Now as before the Indians loved me, and, as Lord of the 
Heart and their hereditary cacique, in a sense I still was 
great, although but the shadow of power dwelt with me : 
the substance had departed, as it departs ever from those 
who fail. From time to time I strove to rebuild the plot ; 
but, now that I was friendless and without fortune, few 
would follow me thus far. 

So it came about that at length I abandoned the en- 
deavour, and lived as best I could. I fought in three wars, 
and gained honours therein, and took my share in many 
adventures, all of which left me as poor as I had entered 
on them. At times I remembered my desire to become a 
priest, but now it was over late to study ; also my hands 
were too much soiled with the affairs of the world. 

Wearying of the struggle, I went back to my village in 
the mountains and dwelt there awhile, but this also wearied 
me, haying nothing to do, and I turned my attention to the 
management of mines. 

It was while I was thus employed, as a middle-aged man, 
that I made the acquaintance of James Strickland, who 
was destined to accompany me to the city, Heart of the 
World. 



THE SEfiOR STRICKLAND 2y 

CHAPTER II 

THE SESfOR STRICKLAND 

Two-and-twenty years ago, I, Ignatio, visited a village in 
the State of Tamaulipas, named Cumarvo, a beautiful 
place, half -hidden in pine forests amongst the mountains. 
I came to this hamlet because a friend of mine, one of the 
brethren of the Order of the Heart, wrote to me saying 
that there was an Indian in the neighbourhood who had in 
his possession an ancient Aztec scroll, which, being in 
picture-writing, neither he nor anyone else could read. 

This scroll had descended to the Indian through many 
generations, and with it a tradition that it told of a very 
rich gold mine in the mountains whereof the site was lost, 
which had been closed to save it from the grip of Cortes, 
by the order of Guatemoc, my forefather, whom the 
Spaniards murdered may their souls be accursed ! 

Now, I had been taught the secret of the picture-writing 
by old Antonio, my father's friend, when first I was in- 
itiated into the mysteries of the Heart, though it must die 
with me, for I believe that at this hour there is no other 
man living who can read it. 

This writing the Indian was willing to give up to ,me as 
Lord of the Heart, and accordingly, having nothing better 
to do, I journeyed to Cumarvo to study it. In this matter, 
as in many others, I was destined to meet with disappoint- 
ment, however at any rate for a while ; for, on my arrival 
at the house of my friend, I heard that the Indian had 
died of a sudden sickness, and that his son could not dis- 
cover where the scroll was hidden. 

Another thing I heard also, namely, that a white man, 
an Inglese, the first who ever visited these parts, had come 
to the village about six months before, and was engaged in 



30 HEART OF THE WORLD 

working some old silver mines on behalf of a company, a 
task that he found difficult, for the Mexican owners of 
land in the neighbourhood, being jealous of him and angry 
because he paid his men a fair wage, were striving to pre- 
vent Indians from labouring in his mine. 

Now the natives of this place, from Monday morning to 
Saturday night, were a gentle and industrious people, but 
they had this fault, that on the Saturday night many of 
them were accustomed to become drunk on mescal, the 
spirit that is distilled from the root of the aloe. Then 
their natures were changed, and fierce quarrels would 
spring up amongst them, for the most part about women, 
that ended often enough in bloodshed. 

It chanced that such a fray arose on the night of my ar- 
rival at Cumarvo. On the morrow I saw the fruits of it 
as I walked down the little street which was bordered by 
white, flat-roofed houses and paved with cobble-stones, 
purposing to attend mass in the lime-washed church, 
where the bell rang night and day to scare evil spirits 
back to hell. 

In the middle of the street, lying in the shade of a 
house, were two dead men. A handsome Indian girl, with 
a sullen and unmoved countenance, was engaged in wind- 
ing a serape, or blanket, round one of the bodies ; but the 
other lay untended, certain stains upon the clothing re- 
vealing the manner of its end. On a doorstep sat a third 
man, much wounded about the head and face, while the 
barber of the village, its only doctor, attempted to remove 
his hair with a pair of blunt scissors, so that he might 
dress the cuts. 

The scene was dreadful, but no one took much notice of it, 
for Indian life is cheap, and in those days death by violence 
was even more common in Mexico than it is now. On the 
opposite side of the street an old woman chaffered with a 
passer-by about the price of her oranges, while some chil- 
dren with shouts and laughter strove to lasso and drag away 




'This is your doing, woman! Are you not afraid? 



THE SENOR STRICKLAND 31 

a pig that haunted the place ; and a girl on her way to 
mass stepped over the uncovered body which lay so quiet 
in the shade, and, recognising it as that of a friend, crossed 
herself as she hurried on. 

" What is the cause of this, senor ? " I asked of the 
barber. 

" I' think that I have the honour of addressing Don 
Ignatio," the little man answered, and, lifting his hands 
from their work, he made a sign showing that he also was 
a member of our Brotherhood, though a humble one. 

" Ah, I thought so," he went on as I gave the counter- 
sign ; " we heard that you were going to visit us, and I am 
glad of it, for I weary of dressing wounds on Sundays, and 
perhaps you may be able to put a stop to these fights. 
The woman was the cause of it, of course, senor ; these are 
not the first she has brought to their deaths," and he nod- 
ded at the girl who was wrapping the body in a blanket. 

" You see, she was going to marry this man," and he 
tapped the Indian whose wounds he was dressing on the 
shoulder, " but she took up with that one," pointing to 
the nearest body, " whereon Number One here, being 
drunk with mescal, laid wait for Number Two and stabbed 
him dead. The girl who was with him ran for Number 
Three yonder, Number Two's brother, but Number One 
ambushed him, so he was killed also. Then, hearing the 
noise, the village guard came up and cut down our friend 
here with their machetes, but as you see, unfortunately, 
they did not kill him." 

I heard, and anger took hold of me. Approaching the 
girl, I said : 

" This is your doing, woman ! Are you not afraid ? " 

" What of it ? " she answered, sullenly ; " can I help it if 
I am pretty, and men fight for me ? Also, who are you who 
ask me whether I am afraid ? " 

"Fool!" cried the barber from the doorstep; "do you 
dare to speak thus to the Lord of the Heart ? " 



32 -HEART OF THE WORLD 

The girl started, and replied : 

" Why not ? Is he then my lord ? " 

"Listen, girl \" I said; "others besides these have 
died through you/' 

" How do you know that ? " she answered. " But what 
need to ask ? If you are the Lord of the Heart you have 
the evil eye, and can read secrets without their being dis- 
covered to you/' 

"It is you that have the evil eye, woman, like many 
another of your sex ! " I said. " Hear me, now : you will 
leave this place, and you will never return to it, for if you 
do, you die ! Also, remember that if harm should come to 
any more men on your account, wherever you go I shall 
know of it, and you will die there ! " 

"Whoever you are, you are not the Government, and 
have no right to kill me," she said, trying to hide the fear 
which crept into her dark eyes. 

' ' No, woman, I am not the Government ; but among 
our people I am more powerful than the Government. If 
you do not believe me, ask the doctor yonder, and he will 
tell you that I should be obeyed, even by people who had 
never seen me, where a troop of soldiers would be laughed 
at. If I say that you are to die, you will die in this way 
or in that, for my curse will be on you. Perhaps you 
may tumble over a precipice, or you may take a fever, or 
be drowned in crossing a river, quien sabe ! " 

" I know, lord, I know," she whispered, shivering, for 
now she was frightened. " Do not look so terribly at me ; 
spare me this time for the love of God ! I did not mean 
to do it, but when men put their hearts into a woman's 
hand, how can she help squeezing them, especially if she 
hates men ? But I did not hate this one," and she 
touched the cheek of the dead Indian caressingly ; " I 
really meant to marry him. It is that fellow whom I 
hate," pointing to her wounded lover, " and I hope that 
he will be shot, else I think that I shall poison him." 



THE SEN OR STRICKLAND 33 

" You will not poison him, woman ; and, though he de- 
serves to die, you are worse than he. Now begone, and 
remember my words ! " 

Bending down, she touched the corpse's forehead with 
her lips, then, rising, said : 

" I kiss your feet, Lord of the Heart," and went away 
without looking behind her, nor was she seen again in that 
village. 

Then, with a sigh, I also was turning to go, for it sad- 
dened me to think that when drink got hold of them, a 
woman should have the power to change these men, who 
were my brethren, into savage beasts thirsting for each 
other's blood. 

" Ah ! " I mused, " had it not been for that other wo- 
man who destroyed me and my hope, by now I had begun 
to teach them better." 

At this moment, looking up, I chanced to see a man such 
as I had never before beheld, standing by my side and 
gazing at me. Stories are told of how men and women, 
looking on each other for the first time, in certain cases 
are filled with a strange passion of love, of which, come 
what may, they can not again be rid. 

Among many misfortunes, thanks be to my guardian 
angels, this fate has never overtaken me, yet at that mo- 
ment I felt something that was akin to it not love, in- 
deed, but a great sense of friendship and sympathy for and 
with this man, which, mastering me then, is still growing 
to this hour, though its object has for many years been 
dead. 

Perhaps it was the contrast between us that attracted me 
so much at first, since human beings are ever drawn to- 
wards their opposites in nature and appearance. I, as you, 
my friend, for whom I write this history, will remember, 
although you have only known me in my age, am tall, thin, 
and sallow, like all my race, with a sad expression re- 
flecting the heart within, and melancholy eyes. 



34 HEART OF THE WORLD 

Very different were the mind and appearance of James 
Strickland, the Englishman. He was a fine man, over 
thirty years of age, short in proportion to his width, 
though somewhat spare in frame and slender in limb. His 
features were as clearly cut as those of an ancient god up- 
on a marble wall ; his eyes were blue as the sea, and, though 
just now they were troubled at the sight of death, merry 
like the eyes of a boy ; his curling hair for he had removed 
his hat in the presence of the dead was yellow as mimosa 
bloom, darkening almost to red in the short beard and 
about the ears, where the weather had caught it ; and 
beneath his shirt, which was open at the neck, his skin 
showed white like milk. For the rest, his hands were long 
and delicate, notwithstanding the hard work of which they 
bore traces ; his glance was quick, and his smile the most 
pleasant that ever I had seen. 

" Your pardon, sefior," said this Inglese, in good Span- 
ish, bowing to me as he spoke, " but unwittingly I have 
overheard some of your talk with yonder woman, and I 
cannot understand how it comes about that you, a stranger, 
have so much authority over her. I wish that you would 
explain it to me in order that I might learn how to put 
a stop to such murders. These dead men were two of my 
best workmen, and I do not know where I shall look to 
replace them." 

"I cannot explain it, sefior," I answered, returning his 
bow, " further than to say that I have a certain rank among 
the Indians, on account of which they reverence me. Still, 
though I have no right to ask it of a stranger, I pray that 
you will forget any words of mine which may chance to 
have reached your ears, since of such authority the Govern- 
ment is jealous." 

" By all means, sefior ; they are already forgotten. 
Well, adios, this sight is not so pleasant that I wish to 
study it," and replacing his hat upon his head, he passed 
on. 



THE SEN OR STRICKLAND 35 

Although my journey proved to be in vain, seeing that 
the scroll I came to read had vanished, I lingered in the 
village of Cumarvo, alleging as the reason of my stay a 
hope that it might be discovered, but really, as I believe, 
because I desired to become friendly with this white man. 

As it chanced, an opportunity was soon given me to do 
him a signal service. I have stated that there dwelt men 
of position in this place, Mexicans who were jealous of the 
Englishman, and these people stirred up some discontented 
miners in his employ to make a plot to murder him, saying 
that, if they did so, they would win a great treasure which 
he kept hidden in his house. 

This plot came to my ears through one of the Brother- 
hood, and I determined to frustrate it, to which end I 
collected together twenty good men and true, and, arming 
them with -guns, bade them be silent about the matter, 
above all to the Inglese, whom I did not wish to alarm. 

The plan of the murderers was at the hour of dawn to 
attack the house where the Seiior Strickland slept with 
four or five servants only, and to put all within its walls to 
death. Accordingly, about one o'clock on the night fixed, 
I despatched my men by twos and threes, instructing them 
to go round the hills at the back of the house, and, creep- 
ing into the garden, to hide themselves there among the 
trees till I appeared. 

An hour later I followed them myself without being 
observed by the spies of the attacking party, for rain fell 
and the night was very dark. Arriving in the garden, I 
collected my men, and placed them in ambush under a 
low wall commanding the street, up which I knew the 
murderers must come. Here we waited patiently till the 
cocks crew and the dawn began to break in the east. 

Presently we heard a stir in the village beneath, as of 
men marching, and in the gathering light we saw the 
murderers creeping stealthily up the street to the number 
of fifty or more. So great was their fear of the English- 



36 HEART OF THE WORLD 

man, that they thought it safer to bring many men to kill 
him, also each of the villains desired that his neighbour 
should be a sharer in the crime. 

" Will you not wake up the Inglese?" asked the man 
next to me. 

" 'No/' I answered, " it will be time enough to wake him 
when the affair is settled. Let none of you fire till I give 
the word." 

Now, the brigands in the street below, men without 
shame, after waiting a little time for the light to grow 
stronger, advanced toward the gate, looking like a proces- 
sion of monks, for the air was chilly and each of them wore 
his serape wrapped about his head. In their hands they 
carried rifles and drawn machetes. 

Within ten paces of the gate they paused for a minute to 
consult, and I heard their leader, a Mexican, direct half of 
them to creep round to the back of the house so as to cut 
off all escape. Then I whistled, which was the signal 
agreed upon, at the same time covering the Mexican with 
my rifle. Almost before the sound had left my lips, there 
followed a report of twenty guns, and some fifteen or six- 
teen of the enemy were stretched upon the ground. 

For a moment they wavered, and I thought that the 
rest of them were going to fly, but this they dared not do, 
for they knew that they had been seen ; therefore they 
rushed at the wall with a yell, firing as they came. As they 
climbed over it we met them with pistol shots and machetes, 
and for .a few minutes the affair was sharp, for they were 
desperate, and outnumbered us. 

Still they lost many men in scaling the wall and forcing 
the gate, and with the exception of fourteen who fled, and 
were for the most part caught afterwards, the rest of them 
we finished amongst the flowers and vegetables of the garden. 
Just as all was over, the Englishman, who was a sound 
sleeper, appeared yawning, dressed in white, and holding a 
pistol in his hand. 



THE SEftOR STRICKLAND 37 

" What is this noise ? " he asked, rubbing his eyes, "and 
why are you people fighting in my garden ? Go away, all 
of you, or I shall shoot at you/' 

"I trust," I said, bowing, "that. the senor will pardon 
us for disturbing him in his slumber, but this matter could 
not be settled without some noise. May I offer the seiior 
my serape? The air is chilly, and he will catch cold in 
that dress." 

"Thank you/' he said, putting on the scrape. "And 
now perhaps you will explain why you come to spoil my 
garden by making a battle-field of it." 

Then I told him, and was astonished to see that as I 
went on he grew very angry. 

" I suppose that I must thank you, gentlemen, for sav- 
ing my life," he said at last, " though I never asked you 
to do it. But, all the same, I think it shameless that you 
should have had this fight in my own garden, without giv- 
ing me the opportunity of sharing it. Caramba I am I a 
little girl that I should be treated in such a way ? " And of 
a sudden he burst out laughing and shook me by the hand. 

That day, when all the trouble was over, and the place 
had been made tidy, the Senor Strickland sent a man to 
ask if I would do him the pleasure to dine with him. I 
accepted, and as we sat smoking after dinner, having talked 
of the fight till we were tired of it, he spoke thus to me : 

" Don Ignatio, I owe you my life, and, believe me, I am 
grateful, for I do not see why you should have risked so 
much for a foreign stranger." 

"I did it because I like you, senor," I answered, "also 
because it is very pleasant to catch the wicked in their 
own toils. Those who perished this morning were villains, 
every one of them. They came in the hope of plunder, for 
such ' men without shame ' will murder human beings for 
five dollars a head ; but they were set on by others who 
hate you because you treat your Indian workmen fairly, 
and also because they do not wish foreigners here to com- 



38 HEART OF THE WORLD 

pete with them, and think that you are but the first bird 
of the flock. Therefore they thought that it would be 
good policy to kill you so as to frighten away others who 
might follow. However, that danger has gone by, and you 
need have no more fear, for they have learnt a lesson which 
they will not forget/' 

" So much the better then," he answered, "for I have 
troubles enough to deal with here, without being bothered 
to protect my life against such contemptible vermin. And 
now, Don Ignatio, I hardly like to ask you, and I daresay 
that you will think the offer beneath contempt, but are 
you willing to accept an engagement ? I am sadly in need 
of a sub-manager, one who could control the Indians, and 
to such a man I am prepared to pay a hundred dollars a 
month ; the funds of the company I represent will not 
allow me to offer more.'* 

I thought for a while and answered : 

" Senor, the money is not enough to tempt me, though 
it wiii serve to buy food, lodging, and cigars, but I accept 
your offer for the same reason that I fought your battles 
this morning, because I like you, and will gladly do my 
best to serve you and your interests. Still, I must warn 
you that, for aught I know, I may have to leave your ser- 
vice at short notice, for my time is not altogether my own. 
I also am the servant of a great company, senor, and 
though now I am on leave, as it were, and . have been for 
these many years, I may be required at any moment." 

Thus it was, then, that I entered the service of the Sefior 
James Strickland, or rather of his company, in which I 
continued for something more than a year, working very 
hard, for the senor did not spare either me or himself. But 
as the records of those months of fruitless labour could have 
little interest for you, my friend, instead of writing of them, 
I will tell you in few words what was the history of this 
Englishman as he told it to me. 



THE SENOR STRICKLAND 39 

He was of noble blood, as might be seen in his face, for 
he had a right to be addressed as " honourable," which it 
would seem means more in England than it does here. 
Nevertheless, his father was a priest of the heretic church 
and quite poor, though, how this came about, you, being 
an Englishman, will understand better than I, seeing that 
in most countries it is the privilege of nobles to enrich 
themselves at the expense of others of less rank. 

At any rate, when James Strickland's father died, his 
son, who was then a lad of twenty, found that he possessed 
in the world no more than five thousand dollars. This 
sum, being of adventurous mind and sanguine tempera- 
ment, he invested in a ranch in Texas, where he endured 
much danger and hardship, and lost all his money. 

After this experience, having nothing to live on and no 
friends, he was obliged to labour with his hands like a peon, 
and this he did in many ways. He broke horses, he herded 
cattle ; once, even, for two months he sank so low it makes 
me angry to write of it as to be forced to wait upon the 
guests in an inn at Panama. 

Thence he drifted to Nicaragua, and became mixed up 
in mining ventures, and when first I met him he had been 
a miner for ten years. Most of this time he spent man- 
aging a mine for an American, in the Chontales country, 
on the frontier of Honduras, where the fever is so bad 
that few white men can live. Here it was that he learned 
to speak Spanish and the Indian or Maya tongue. At 
length, after an attack of fever which nearly killed him, 
he left Honduras, and came to Mexico, where he ac- 
cepted the management of this silver mine at Cumarvo. 
Hitherto it had been worked by a Mexican on behalf of its 
owners, who dismissed the rogue for stealing the ore and 
selling it. 

This mine, though very rich, was hard to deal with pro- 
fitably because of the water gathered in it, and all the 
months that the Senor Strickland had been its captain he 



40 HEART OF THE WORLD 

was employed in driving a tunnel upwards from a lower 
level in the cliff, in order to drain the workings. Shortly 
after I came into his service this tunnel was finished, for 
now I was able to obtain plenty of labour, which before he 
had lacked, and we began to bring to bank ore running 
as high as two hundred ounces to the ton, so that for some 
months all went well. 

Then of a sudden the ore body dipped straight down- 
ward, as though it had been bent when hot, and we fol- 
lowed it till the water increased so much that we were un- 
able to carry it out, for in those days there were no steam 
pumps in Mexico, such as are now used for the drying of 
mines. First we tried to strike another vein, but without 
success ; then we attempted to pierce a second drainage 
tunnel at a still lower level, but, after more than three 
months' labour, the rock became so hard that we were 
obliged to abandon the task. 

Now there was nothing to be done except to stop work 
at the tunnel, and report the matter by letter to the 
owners of the mine, employing ourselves meanwhile in the 
smelting of such ore as we had stacked. This, indeed, we 
needed to do in order to pay wages with the silver, seeing 
that after the first few months the owners ceased to remit 
us money. 

One evening, on returning from the smelting-works to 
the house, I found the Senor Strickland, his chin resting 
on his hand and an unlighted cigar in his mouth, seated 
at a table, on which lay an open letter. All through our 
misfortunes and heavy labour he had never lost heart, or 
forgotten to smile and be merry, but now he looked sad as 
a man who has just buried his mother, and I asked him what 
evil thing had happened. 

" Nothing particular, Ignatio," he answered ; " but listen 
here." And he read the letter aloud. 

It was from one of the owners of the mine, and this was 
the purport of it : that the shaft had become choked with 



THE SEN OR STRICKLAND 41 

water because of the incompetence and neglect of the 
senor ; that they, the owners, hereby dismissed him sum- 
marily, refusing to pay him the salary due ; and, lastly, 
that they held him responsible in his own person for such 
money as they had lost. 

" Surely," I cried in>, wrath, when he had finished, 
" this letter was written by a man without shame, and I 
pray that he may find his grave in the stomachs of hogs 
and vultures ! " for I forgot myself in my indignation 
against those that could speak thus of the senor, who had 
slaved day and night in their service, giving himself no 
rest. 

" Do not trouble, Ignatio," he said, with a little smile, 
' ' it is the way of the world. I have failed, and must take 
the consequences. Had I succeeded, there would have been 
a different story. Still I think that, if ever I meet this 
man again, I will kick him for telling lies about me. Do 
you know, Ignatio, that, with the exception of one thou- 
sand dollars which remain to my credit in Mexico, I have 
spent all my own money that I had saved upon this mine, 
and of that thousand dollars, eight hundred are due to you 
for back pay, so, whatever trade I take to next, I shall not 
begin as a rich man." 

"Be silent, I beg of you, senor," I answered, "for such 
words make my ears burn. What ! am I also a thief that 
I should rob you, you who have already been plucked like 
a fowl for the good of others ? Insult me once more by 
such thoughts and I will never pardon you." 

And I left the house to calm myself by walking among 
the mountains, little knowing what I should hear before I 
entered it again. 



42 HEART OF THE WORLD 

CHAPTER III 

THE SUMMONS 

As I walked down the street of the village I met my friend, 
with whom I had stayed when first I came to Cumarvo. 

" Ah ! lord/' he said for those who are initiated among 
the Indians give me this title when none are by " I was 
seeking you. The scroll has been found." 

" What scroll ? " 

" That picture-writing about the ancient mine which 
brought you here. You remember that he who owned the 
document died, and his son could not discover its where- 
abouts. Well, yesterday he found it by chance while he was 
hunting rats in the roof of his house, 'and brought it to me. 
Here it is/' and he gave me a roll wrapped in yellow linen. 

" Good," I answered, " I will study it to-night," and 
continued my walk, thinking little more about the matter, 
for my mind was full of other things. 

The air was pleasant and the evening fine, so that I did 
not return to the house till the moon rose. As I passed up 
the path a man stepped so suddenly from the shelter of a 
bush in front of me, that I drew my machete, thinking that 
he meant to do me a mischief. 

" Stay your hand, lord," said the man, saluting me hum- 
bly, and at the same time giving the sign of brotherhood. 
"It is many years since we met, so perchance you may have 
forgotten me ; still, you will remember my name ; I am 
Molas, your foster-brother." 

Then I looked at him in the moonlight and knew him, 
though time had changed us both, and, putting my arms 
round him, I embraced him, seeing that he had been faith- 
ful when many deserted me, and I loved him as to-day I 
love his memory. 



THE SUMMONS 43 

" What brings you here, Molas ? " I asked ; " when last 
I heard of you, you were dwelling far away in Chiapas/' 

" A strange matter : Business of the Heart, Lord of 
the Heart, which I deemed so pressing that I have jour- 
neyed over land and sea to find you. Have you a place 
where I can speak with you alone ? " 

" Follow me," I said, wondering, and led him to my own 
chamber, where I gave him food and drink, for he was 
weary with travel. 

"Now set out this business," I said. 

" First show me the token, lord. I desire to see it once 
more for a purpose of my own." 

I rose and closed the shutters of the window, then I bared 
my breast, revealing the ancient symbol. For a while he 
gazed upon it, and said, " It is enough. Tell me, lord, 
what is the saying that has descended with this trinket." 

" The saying is, Molas, that when this half that I wear 
is reunited with the half that is wanting, then the Indians 
shall rule again from sea to sea, as they did when the Heart 
was whole." 

" That is the saying, lord. We learn it in the ritual 
that is called ' Opening of the Heart/ do we not ? and in 
this ritual that half which you wear is named ' Day ' since 
it can be seen, and that half which is lost is named ' Night/ 
since, though present, it is not seen, and it is told to us 
that the ' Day ' and the ' Night ' together will make one 
perfect circle, whereof the centre is named the ' Heart of 
Heaven/ of which these things are the symbol. Is it not 
so?" 

"It is so, Molas." 

" Good. Now listen. That which was lost is found, the 
half which is named ' Night ' has appeared in the land, for 
I have seen it with my eyes, and it is to tell you of it that 
I have travelled hither." 

" Speak on," I said. 

" Lord, yonder in Chiapas there is a ruined temple that 



44 HEART OF THE WORLD 

the antiguos built, and to that temple have come a man 
and a woman, his daughter. The man is old and fierce- 
eyed, a terrible man, and the girl is beautiful exceedingly. 
There in the ruins they have dwelt these four months 
and more, and the man practises the art of medicine, for he 
is a great doctor, and has wrought many cures, though he 
takes no money in payment for his skill, but food only. 

" Now it chanced, lord, that my wife, whom I married 
but two years ago, was very sick, so sick that the village 
doctor could do nothing for her. Therefore the fame of 
the old Indian who dwelt in the ruined temple having 
reached me, I determined to visit him and seek his counsel, 
or, if possible, to bring him to my home. 

" When my wife heard of it, she said it was of no use, as 
she saw Death sitting at the foot of her bed. Still I kissed 
her and went, leaving her in charge of the padre of the 
village and some women, her sisters. With me I took a 
lock of her hair, and some fowls and eggs as a present to 
the Lacandone, for they said that, though of our race, this 
doctor was not a Christian. 

' ' Starting before the dawn I travelled all day by the 
river and through the forest, till at evening I came to the 
ruined temple which I knew, and began to climb its broken 
stair. As I neared the top, a man appeared from beneath 
the leaning arch that is the gateway of the stair, and stood 
gazing at the ball of the setting sun. He was an aged 
man, clad in a linen robe only, very light, in colour, with 
long white beard and hair, a nose hooked like a hawk's 
beak, -and fierce eyes that seemed to pierce those he looked 
upon and to read their most secret thoughts. 

" e Greeting, brother/ he said, speaking in our own 
tongue, but with a strange accent, and using many words 
which are unknown to me, ' What brings- you here ? ' 

" Then he looked at me awhile, and asked slowly : 

" ' Say, brother, are you sick at heart ? ' 

" Now, lord, when I heard those words whereof you 



THE SUMMONS 45 

know the meaning, I was so astounded that I almost fell 
backwards down the ruined stair, but, recovering myself, 
I tried him with a sign, and lo, he answered it. Then I 
tried him with the second sign, and the third, and the 
fourth, and so on up to the twelfth, and he answered them 
all, though not always as we use them. Then I paused, 
and he said : 

" ' You have passed the door of the Sanctuary, enter, 
brother, and draw on to the Altar/ 

" But I shook my head, for I could not. Next he tried 
me with various signs and strange words that have to do 
with the inmost mysteries, but I was not able to answer 
them, though at times I saw their drift. 

" ( You have some knowledge/ he said, ' yet you do but 
stand at the foot of the pyramid, whereas I watch the stars 
from its crest, warming my hands at the eternal fire/ 

" ' None of my order have more, lord/ I answered, ' save 
the very highest/ 

" ' Then there are higher in the land ? ' he asked eagerly, 
but started suddenly, and, looking round, went on without 
waiting for an answer, ( You are in sorrow, Child of the 
Heart, and have come from one who was sick to the death ; 
to your business, and perchance we will speak of these 
matters afterwards/ 

" ( First, lord/ I said, ' I have brought an offering/ and 
I set down the basket at his feet. 

" ' Gifts are good between brethren/ he replied ; ' more- 
over, in this barren place food is welcome. Come hither, 
daughter, and take what this stranger brings/ 

" As he spoke a lady came forward through the archway, 
dressed like her father, in a white robe of fine fabric, but 
somewhat worn. I looked at her, and it is truth, lord, that 
for the second time I went near to falling, for so great was 
the loveliness of this girl that my heart turned to water 
within me. Never before had I seen, or even dreamed of, 
such beauty in a woman." 



46 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" To your tale, Molas, to your tale. What has the fashion 
of a woman's beauty to do with the business of the Heart ? " 
I broke in, angrily. 

" I do not know, lord," he answered ; " and yet I think that 
it has to do with all earthly things." Then he continued : 

" The lady, whose name was Maya, looked at me care- 
lessly, and took the basket. Following her through the 
archway to the terrace beyond, I set out the matter of my 
wife's illness to the doctor or rather to him who passes as a 
doctor, and who is named Zibalbay, or Watcher praying 
that he would come to the village and minister to her. 

" He listened in silence, then took the lock of hair that 
I had brought with me, and, going to a fire that burned 
near by, he laid some of the hair upon an ember and 
watched it as it writhed and shrivelled away. 

" ' It would be of little use, brother/ he said, sadly, 
' seeing that your wife is now dead. I felt her spirit pass 
us as we talked together in the gateway ; still, until I 
burnt the hair, I did not know whether it was she who 
went by, or another/ 

" Here I may tell you, lord, that, as I found afterwards, 
my wife departed at that very hour of sunset, though 
whether the doctor, Zibalbay, guessed that she must die 
then from the symptoms which I described to him, or 
whether he has the spirit sight, and saw her, I do not know. 

" Still, it seems natural that at that moment of her pass- 
ing she should come to bid farewell to the husband whom 
she loved, though I think it is a bad omen for me, and I 
pray that I may never see that place again. At the least, 
when I heard him speak thus I did not doubt his truth, for 
something within me confirmed it, but I hid my face and 
groaned aloud in the bitterness of my grief. 

( ' Then, taking my hand, Zibalbay, the Watcher, spoke 
great words to me in a solemn voice that seemed to soothe 
me as the song of a mother soothes a restless child, for he 
talked with certainty as one who has knowledge and vision 



THE SUMMONS 47 

of those who have gone beyond, telling me that this parting 
was not for long, and that soon I should find her whom I had 
lost made glorious and folded close to the Heart of Heaven. 
Then he laid his hand upon my head, and I slept awhile, to 
wake, sad, indeed, but filled with a strange peace. 

" ' Food is ready, my brother,' said Zibalbay. ' Eat and 
rest here this night ; to-morrow you can return.' 

" Now when we had eaten, Zilbalbay spoke to me in the 
presence of his daughter, who, though a woman, is also of 
the Order, saying : 

" ' You are of our Brotherhood, therefore the words I 
speak will be repeated to none who are not brethren, for I 
speak upon the Heart.' 

" ' I hear with the Ears, lord/ I answered. 

" ' Listen ! ' he went on. ' I come from far with this 
maiden/ my daughter, and we are not what we seem, but 
who and what we are now is not the hour to tell. This is 
the purpose of our coming to find that which is one, but 
divided ; that which is not lost, but hidden. Perchance, 
brother, you can point the path to it/ and he paused and 
looked at me with his piercing eyes. 

" Now, lord, I understood to what his words had' refer- 
ence, for are they not part of the ' ritual of the service 
' Opening of the Heart ? ' Still, because I desired to be 
sure, and not commit myself, I picked up a piece of burnt 
wood, and, as though in idleness, bent down, and, by the 
light of the fire, I dreAV the half of a heart with a saw-like 
edge upon the pavement of the chamber where we sat. 
Then I handed the stick to Zibalbay, who took it and 
passed it on to his daughter, saying : 

" ' I have no skill at such arts ; finish it, Maya.' 

" She smiled, and, kneeling down, traced the half of a 
face within the outline that I had drawn, saying : 

" ' Is it enough, or do you need the writing also ? ' 

" 'It is enough/ I answered. ' Now, lord, what do you 
desire ? ' 



48 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" ' I desire to know where that which is hidden can be 
brought to light, and if it dwells in this land, for I have 
journeyed far to seek it.' 

" 'It dwells here/ I answered, ' for I have beheld it with 
my eyes, and he guards it who is its keeper/ 

" ' Can you lead me to him, brother ? ' 

" ' No, for I have no such commands ; but perhaps I 
can bring him to you, though I must journey by sea and 
land to find him that is, if he wills to come. Say, what 
message shall I give ? That a stranger whom I have met 
desires to look upon the holy symbol ? It will scarcely 
bring him so far/ 

"'Nay, tell him that the hour is come for "Night" 
and "Day" to be joined together, that a new sun may 
shine in a new sky/ 

"'I can tell him this, but will he believe it, seeing that 
I have no proof ? Will he not rather think that some cun- 
ning stranger and false brother lays a plot to trap him ? 
Give me proofs, lord, or I do not start upon this errand/ 

" ' AVill he believe that which you have seen with your 
eyes ? ' 

" ' He will believe it, for he has trusted me from child- 
hood/ 

" ' Then look ! ' said the man, and, opening his robe at 
the neck, he kneeled down in the light of the fire. 

" There, lord, upon his breast hung that which has been 
hidden from our sight since the sons of Quetzal, the god, 
ruled in the land, the counterpart of the severed symbol 
which is upon your breast. That is all my story, lord." 

Now I, Ignatio, listened amazed, for the thing was mar- 
vellous. 

" Did the man send me no further message ? " I asked. 

" None. He said that if you were a true keeper of the 
mystery you would come to learn his mission from himself, 
or bring him to you." 



THE SUMMONS 49 

" And did you tell him anything of me and of my his- 
tory, Molas ? " 

" Nothing ; I had no such command. On the morrow 
at dawn I left to bury my wife, if she were dead, or to 
nurse her if she still were sick, saying that so soon as 
might be I would travel to the city of Mexico to seek out 
the Keeper of the Heart and give him this tidings, and 
that within eight weeks or less I trusted to report how I 
had fared. The old man asked me if I had money, and 
without waiting to be answered he gave me two handfuls 
of lumps of moulded gold from a hide bag, whereof each 
lump was stamped with the symbol of the Heart/' 

" Let me see one," I said. 

"Alas ! my lord Ignatio, I have none. Not far from 
the ruined temple where this Zibalbay and his daughter 
sojourned, is the hacienda of Santa Cruz, and there, as you 
may have heard, dwell a gang of men under the leadership 
of one Don Pedro Moreno, who are by profession smug- 
glers, highway robbers, and murderers, though they pre- 
tend to earn a living by the cultivation of coffee and cocoa. 

" As it chanced, in journeying homewards, I fell into 
the hands of some of these men. They searched me, and, 
finding the lumps of gold in my pocket, handed them over 
to Don Pedro himself, who rode up when he saw that they 
had the fish in their net. He examined the gold closely, 
and asked me whence it came. At first I refused to an- 
swer, whereupon he said that I should be confined in a 
dungeon at the hacienda until such time as I chose to 
speak. 

" Then, being mad to get back to my village and learn 
the fate of my wife, I found my tongue and spoke the truth, 
saying that the gold was given in exchange for food by an 
old Indian doctor, who dwelt with his daughter in a ruined 
temple in the forest. 

" ' Mother of Heaven ! ' said Don Pedro, ' I have heard 
of this man before ; but now I know the kind of mer- 



50 HEART OF THE WORLD 

chandise in which he trades, I think that I must pay him 
a visit and learn what mint it was stamped at/ 

" Then, having plucked me bare as a fowl for the oven, 
they let me go without hurt, but often I have sorrowed be- 
cause, in my hour of haste and need, I told them whence 
the gold came, since I fear lest I should thus have let loose 
these villains upon the old wanderer and his daughter, and 
in that case they may well be murdered before ever you can 
reach them." 

" Doubtless Heaven will protect them," I answered, 
"though you acted foolishly. But tell me, Molas, how 
did you find me out and come here without money ? " 

"I had some money at home, lord, and when I had 
buried my wife I travelled to Frontera on the coast, where 
I found a ship bound for Vera Cruz, and in her I sailed, 
giving my service as a sailor, which is a trade that I have 
followed. From Vera Cruz I made my way to Mexico, and 
reported myself to the head of the Brotherhood in that 
city, who, as I expected, was able to give me tidings of you. 

" Then I came on to this village, and arrived here to- 
night, having been a month and two days on my journey. 
And now, lord, if you can, give me a place to sleep in, 
since I am weary, who for three days have scarcely shut my 
eyes. To-morrow you can let me know what answer I must 
bear to the old man, Zibalbay." 

I, Ignatio, sat late that night pondering over these tid- 
ings, which filled me with a strange hope. Could it be 
that my hour of success was at hand after so many years of 
waiting ? If there were truth in prophecies it would seem 
so, and yet my faith wavered. This traveller, whom Mo- 
las had seen, might be a madman, and his symbol might 
be forged. I could not tell, but at least I would put the 
matter to the proof, for to-morrow, or so soon as was pos- 
sible, I would journey down to Chiapas and seek him out. 

Thinking thus, I threw myself upon my bed and strove 



THE SUMMONS 51 

to sleep, but could not. Then, remembering the scroll that 
my friend had given me, I rose, purposing to change my 
thoughts in studying it and so win sleep. It was a hard 
task, but at length I mastered its meaning, and found that 
it dealt with a mine near Cumarvo, and described the 
exact position of the mouth of the tunnel. 

This mouth, it would appear, had been closed up in the 
reign of Guatemoc, and the scroll was written by the 
cacique who had charge of the mine in those days, in order 
that a record might remain that would enable his de- 
scendants to reopen it, should a time come when the 
Spaniards were driven from the land. That the mine was 
very rich in free gold was shown by the weights of pure 
metal stated in this scroll to have been sent year by year to 
the Court of Montezuma by this cacique, and also by the 
fact that it was thought worth hiding from the Spaniards. 

Early on the morrow I went to the room of the Senor 
Strickland and spoke to him with a heavy heart. 

" Senor," I said, " you w'ill remember that when I en- 
tered your service I told you that I might have to leave it 
at any moment. Now I am here to say that the time is 
come, for a messenger has arrived to summon me to the 
other end of Mexico upon business of which I may not 
speak, and to-morrow I must start upon the journey." 

" I am sorry to hear it, Ignatio," he answered, " for you 
have been a good friend to me. Still, you do well to sepa- 
rate your fortunes from those of an unlucky man." 

" And you, senor, do ill to speak thus to me," I answered 
with indignation ; " still, I forgive you because I know 
that at times, when the heart is sore, the mouth utters 
words that are not meant. Listen, senor, when you have 
eaten your breakfast, will you take a ride with me ? " 

" Certainly, if you like. But whither do you wish to 
ride ? " 

" To another mine that is, or should be, about two hours 
on horseback from here, in a valley at the foot of yonder 



52 HEART OF THE WORLD 

peak. I only heard of it last night, though I came to 
Cumarvo to seek it, and it would seem that it was very rich 
in Montezuma's day." 

" In Montezuma's day ? " he said. 

"Yes, it was last worked then, and I propose that 
if we can find it, and it looks well, that you should ' de- 
nounce ' it for yourself, giving a reward of a few dollars to 
the Indian from whom I had the information, who is a 
poor man." 

" But if it is so good, why don't you denounce it, Igna- 
tio ; and how did you come to hear about it after all these 
years ? " 

" For two reasons, senor ; first, because I wish to do you 
a service if it is in my humble power, and, secondly, be- 
cause I cannot look after it and must leave you, though to 
do so will be a true grief to me, for, if you will permit me 
to say it, never have I met a man for whom I conceived a 
greater respect and affection. Perhaps, if I return again, you 
will give me a share in the profits, so that we may grow rich 
together. And now I will show you how I came to hear of 
the mine." And I fetched the scroll, with the translation 
that I had made, and read it to him. 

He listened eagerly, for, like yourself, Senor Jones, 
your countryman-, James Strickland, loved adventure and 
all things that have to do with the past of this ancient land. 

" Let us go at once," he said when I had finished. " I 
will order the horses and a mule with the prospecting kit 
to be got ready. Shall we take men with us ? " 

" I think not, senor ; the mine is not yet found, and the 
less talk there is about it the better, for if the matter is 
noised abroad somebody may be before you in denouncing 
it. The messenger who came to see me last night is a 
trusty man, but he is weary with journeying, and rests, so 
we will go alone." 

An hour later we were riding among the mountains, I 
having left a message for Molas to say that I should return 



THE SUMMONS 53 

before dark. The trail which we were following was a 
difficult one, and ran for some miles along the edge of a 
precipice till it reached the crest of the range. Indeed, so 
bad was it in parts, that we were forced to dismount and 
drive the horses and mule before us, while we followed, 
clinging to the ferns and creepers on the rocks to keep our- 
selves from falling. 

At length we came to the summit of the range, and 
turned downwards through a forest of oak and fir trees, 
heading for a valley that lay at the base of a solitary moun- 
tain peak, along which ran a stream. Down this stream 
we rode a mile or more, since I was searching for a certain 
pointed rock that was mentioned in the scroll as standing 
by itself on the slope of a mountain where no trees grew, 
beneath which should be the glen where in the days of 
Guatemoc was a great ceiba tree that, so said the writing, 
overshadowed the mouth of the mine. 

Eiding uphill through a dense grove of oaks, we came 
presently to the glen that lay just below the slope whereon 
stood the tall rock. 

11 This must be the place," I said, " but I see no ceiba 
tree." 

" Doubtless it has fallen and rotted since those days," 
answered the Senor Strickland. "Let us tether the horses 
and search." 

This we did, and the hunt was long, for here grasses and 
ferns grew thick, but at length I discovered a spot where 
the trunk of a very ancient tree had decayed in the ground, 
so that nothing remained except the outline of its circle 
and some of the larger roots. 

Round about these roots we sought desperately for an 
hour or more, but without avail, till at length my com- 
panion grew weary of the sport, and went to pull up a 
small glossy-leaved palm that he had discovered, purposing 
to take it home and set it in his garden, for he was a great 
lover of plants and flowers. 



54 HEART OF THE WORLD 

While he was thus engaged, and I toiled amongst the 
grasses looking for the mouth of the mine, which, as I 
began to think, was lost forever, suddenly he called out, 
" Come here, Ignatio. Beneath the roots of this palm is 
refuse rock that has been broken with hammers. I believe 
that this must have been the platform in front of the mine. 
One can see that the ground was flat here." 

I came to him, and together we renewed our search, till 
at length, by good luck, we discovered a hole immediately 
beneath a rock, large enough for a man to creep into. 

" Was this made by a coyote, or is it the mouth of the 
mine ? " the senor asked. 

" That we can only find out by entering it," I answered. 
" Doubtless when they shut down the mine, the antiguos 
would have left some such place as this to ventilate the 
workings. Bring the pickaxe, senor, and we will soon 
see." 

For ten minutes or more we laboured, working in soft 
ground with pick and spade till we bared the side of a tun- 
nel, which I examined. 

" There is no need to trouble further," I said, " this 
rock has been cut with copper chisels, for here is the green 
of the copper. Without doubt we have found the mouth 
of the mine. Now give me the hammer and candles, and 
bring the leather bag for samples, and we will enter." 



CHAPTER IV 

THE LEGEND OF THE HEART 

WHEIST I had gone a few paces down the hole, it widened 
suddenly, so that we were able to stand upright and light 
our candles. Now there was no doubt that we were in 



THE LEGEND OF THE HEART 55 

the tunnel of an old mine, a rudely-dng shaft that turned 
this way and that as it followed the windings of the ore 
body. 

Along this tunnel we went for thirty or forty paces, 
creeping over the fallen boulders, and twisting ourselves 
between the brown stalactites that in the course of ages 
had formed upon the roof and floor, till presently we 
reached an obstacle that barred our further progress ; a 
huge mass of rock which at some time or other had fallen 
from the roof of the tunnel and blocked it. I looked at 
it, and said : 

"Now, senor, I think that we shall have to go back. 
You remember the writing tells us that this mine, al- 
though so rich, was unsafe because of the rottenness of 
the rock. Doubtless they propped it in the old days, but 
the timbers have decayed long ago." 

" Yes," he answered, " we can do nothing here without 
help, and, Ignatio, I don't like the look of the roof, it is 
full of cracks." 

As these last words left his lips a piece of stone, the size 
of a child's head, fell from above almost at his feet. 

"Speak softly," I whispered, "the ring of your voice is 
bringing down the roof." 

Then I stooped to pick up the fallen stone, thinking 
that it might show ore, and, as I did so, my hand touched 
something sharp, which I lifted and held to the candle. 
It was the jawbone of a man, yellow with age, and cor- 
roded by damp. I showed it to the senor, and, kneeling 
down, we examined the bed of the tunnel together, and 
not uselessly, for there we found the remainder of the 
skull and some fragments of an arm-bone, but the rest of 
the skeleton lay under the great boulder in front of us. 

"He was coming out of the mine when the rock fell 
upon him, poor fellow," whispered the senor. "Look 
here," and he pointed to a little heap of something that 
gleamed in the candle-light. 



$6 HEART OF THE WORLD 

It was free gold, six or seven ounces of it, almost pure, 
and for the most part in small nuggets, that once were 
contained in a bag which had long since rotted away. 

Doubtless, after the mine was closed, some Aztec, who 
knew its secret, had made a practice of working there for 
his own benefit, till one day, as he was coming out, the 
rock fell upon him and crushed him, leaving his spirit to 
haunt the place for ever. 

" There is no doubt about this mine being rich," whis- 
pered the senor ; "but all the same I think that we had 
better get out of it. I hear odd noises and rumblings 
which frighten me. Come, Ignatio," and he turned to 
lead the way towards the opening. 

Two paces farther I saw him strike his ankle against a 
piece of rock that stood up some six or eight inches from 
the floor-bed of the tunnel, and the pain of the blow was 
so sharp that, forgetting where he was, he called out 
loudly. The next instant there was a curious sound above 
me as of something being torn, and, lo ! I lay upon my face 
on the rock, and upon me rested a huge mass of stone. 

I say that it rested upon me, but this is not altogether 
true, for, had it been so, that stone would have killed me 
at once, as a beetle is killed beneath the foot of a man, 
instead of taking more than two-and-twenty years to do it. 
The greater part of its weight was borne by the piece of 
rock against which the senor had struck his leg, a point 
of the fallen boulder only pressing into my back and 
grinding me against the ground. Now we were in dark- 
ness, for the senor had been knocked down also, and his 
candle extinguished, and, in the midst of my tortures, it 
came into my mind that he must be dead. 

Presently, however, I heard his voice, saying, " Ignatio ; 
do you live, Ignatio ? " 

Now I thought for a moment. Even in my pain I re- 
membered that more of the roof would surely give ere long, 
and that if my friend stayed here he must die with me. 



THE LEGEND OF THE HEART 57 

Nothing couid save me, I was doomed to a slow death be- 
neath the stone ; and yet if I told him this I knew that he 
would not go. Therefore I answered as strongly as I 
could : 

" Fly, sefior, I am safe, and do but stay to light a candle. 
I will follow you." 

" You are lying to me," he answered; "your voice 
comes from the level of the floor." And as he spoke I 
heard the scratching sound of a match. 

So soon as he had found his candle and lit it, he knelt 
down and looked at me. Then he examined the roof 'above, 
and, following his glance with difficulty, I saw that next to 
the hole whence the boulder had fallen, hung a huge block 
of stone, that, surrounded by great cracks from which water 
dropped, trembled like a leaf whenever he moved or spoke. 

"For the love -of God, fly," I whispered. "In a few 
hours it will be over with me, and you cannot help me. I 
am a dead man, do not stop here to share my fate." 

For a moment he seemed to hesitate, then his courage 
came back to him, and he answered hoarsely : 

" We entered this place together, friend, and we will go 
out together, or not at all. You must be fixed by the rock 
and not crushed, or you would not speak of living for 
hours. Let me look," and he lay upon his breast and ex- 
amined the fallen rock by the light of the candle. " Thank 
God ! there is hope," he said at last, " the boulder rests on 
the ground and upon the stone against which I struck my 
leg, for only one point of it is fixed in your back. Do you 
think that anything is broken, Ignatio ? " 

" I cannot say, sefior, my pain is great, and I am being 
slowly crushed to death ; but I believe that as yet my bones 
are whole.' Fly, I beg of you." 

" I will not," he answered sullenly, " I am going to roll 
this rock off you." 

Then, lifting with all his great strength, he strove to 
move the stone, but without avail, for it was beyond the 



58 HEART OF THE WORLD 

power of mortal man to stir it, and all the while the black 
mass trembled above his head. 

" I must go for help/' he said, presently. 

" Yes, yes, sen or," I answered, " go for help ; " for I 
knew well that before he could return with any, more of 
the roof would have fallen, shutting me in to perish by 
inches, or perhaps crushing the life out of me in mercy. 
Then I remembered, and added : 

" Stay a moment before you go ; you are noble, I will 
give you something. Feel here round my neck, there is a 
little chain now, draw it over my head so. You see a 
token hangs to it ; if ever you are in trouble with the In- 
dians, take their chief man apart and show him this, and 
he will die for you if need be. 

" Englishman, by this gift I have made you heir to the 
empire of the Aztecs in the heart of every Indian, and 
the master of the great brotherhood of Mexico. Molas, the 
messenger, will tell you all and bring you to those who can 
initiate you. Bid him lead you whither he would have led 
me. Farewell, and God go with you. Tell the Indians 
how I died, that they may not think that you have mur- 
dered me." 

To these words of mine the senor made no answer, but 
thrust the token into his pocket without looking at it, like 
one who dreams. Then, taking the candle with him, he 
crept forward down the tunnel and vanished, and my heart 
sank as I saw him go, leaving me to my dreadful fate with- 
out a word of farewell. 

" Doubtless he is too frightened to speak," I thought, 
" and it is right that he should fly as quickly as possible to 
save his life." 

Now, as I was soon to learn, I was doing the senor a bit- 
ter wrong in my mind, seeing that he never dreamed of de- 
serting me, but went to find a means of rescue. As he told 
me afterwards, when he reached the mouth of the tunnel, 
he could think of no way by which I might be saved, since 



THE LEGEND OF THE HEART 59 

these mountains were uninhabited, and it would take sev- 
eral hours to bring men from Cumarvo. 

Outside the mine he sat himself down to consider what 
could be done, but no thought came, for it was impossible 
to use the strength of the horses in that narrow place. 
Then he sprang up and looked round him in despair. 
Close to him was a little ravine hollowed by water, and on 
its very edge grew a small mimosa thorn of which the long 
roots had been washed almost bare by a flood. He saw it, 
and an inspiration entered into him. With the help of a 
lever he might be able to do a feat to which his unaided 
strength was not equal. 

Springing at the little tree, that being of so tough a wood 
was the best possible for his purpose, he tore it from such 
root-hold as remained to it. A few strokes with his heavy 
hunting-knife trimmed off the branches and fibres, and soon 
he was creeping carefully up the tunnel, dragging the 
trunk after him. When he had gone some twenty paces 
he heard another fragment of the roof fall, and, so he said 
in his story, was minded to fly. 

He had but just escaped from a horrible end, the end 
that generations ago overtook the poor Aztec, and it was 
awful to brave it again. He knew that his chances of be- 
ing able to rescue me were few indeed, whereas those that 
he would perish miserably in the attempt were many. Then 
he remembered what my sufferings must be if I still lived, 
and how his own conscience would reproach him in the 
after years, should he leave me to my fate, and he went 
on. 

Now he could see that the half-detached mass of the roof 
still hung ; it was a smaller fragment which had fallen, one 
nearer to the entrance. He could see also that I lay in the 
same position beneath the rock, and he thought that I was 
dead, because I neither moved nor spoke, though, in fact, I 
had but swooned under the agony of my suffering. 

"Are you dead?" he whispered, and I heard his voice 



60 HEART OF THE WORLD 

through my sleep, and, lifting my head, looked up at him 
astonished, for I had never thought to see him again. 

" Do I behold a spirit," I said, " or is it you come back ? " 

"It is I, Ignatio, and I have brought a lever. Now 
wjien I lift, struggle forward if you can." 

Then he placed the trunk of the thorn-tree in what 
seemed to Mm the best position, and put all his strength 
upon it. It was in vain ; even so he could not stir the 
rock. 

" Try a little more to the right/' I said, faintly ; " there 
is a better hold." 

He shifted the lever and dragged at it till his muscles 
cracked, and I felt the stone tremble as its bulk began to 
rise. 

" If you can help ever so little, it will come ! " he 
gasped. 

Then ill my despair, though the anguish of it nearly 
killed me, I set my palms upon the ground, and, contract- 
ing myself like a snake that is held with a forked stick, 
thrust upwards with my back, till the point of the stone 
was raised to the height of eight or ten inches from the 
ground. 

For a moment, and one only, it hung there ; next in- 
stant the lever slipped, and down it came again. But I 
had taken my chance, for, clinging to the floor with my 
fingers, so soon as my back was free, with a quick move- 
ment I dragged myself a foot or more forward. Then the 
point of rock that had been lifted from my spine fell again, 
but this time it struck the ground between my thighs. 

Now he seized me by the arms and tore me free, though 
I left one of my long boots beneath the stone. I strove to 
rise, but could not because of the hurt to my back. 

" You must carry me, senor," I said. 

He glanced at the mass that trembled above us ; then, 
giving me the candle, he lifted me from the ground like an 
infant and staggered forward down the tunnel. Perhaps 



THE LEGEND OF THE HEART 6 1 

we had gone some seven or eight paces, not more, when 
there was a dreadful crash behind us. The roof had fallen 
in, and the spot which we occupied some thirty seconds 
before was now piled high with rocks. 

" On ! " I said ; " cracks are showing in the stone above 
us ! " and he rushed forward till we found ourselves out- 
side the mine. 

Now I bowed my head and returned thanks for my es- 
cape ; then, lifting it, I looked my preserver in the face 
and said : 

" I swear by the name of God, senor, that He never 
made a man nobler than yourself ! " 

The next instant I fell forward and fainted there among 
the ferns. 

Ten days had passed since I was carried from the mouth 
of that accursed mine back to Cumarvo in a litter, and 
during all this time I had suffered much pain in my back, 
and been very ill so ill, indeed, that I was scarcely al- 
lowed to speak with anyone. Now, however, I was much 
better, and one afternoon the Seiior Strickland, assisted by 
my foster-brother Molas, lifted me from my bed into a 
hammock. 

" By the way, Ignatio," said the senor when Molas had 
gone, " I never gave you back this charm of yours. What 
a strange trinket it is \" he added, taking it from his 
neck ; " and what did you mean by your talk in the tun- 
nel about its making me heir to the empire of the Aztecs 
in the heart of every Indian, and the rest of it ? I sup- 
pose that YOU were delirious with pain, and did not know 
what you were saying." 

" Is the door shut, senor ? " I asked ; " and are you sure 
that there is no one on the verandah ? Good ! Then 
draw your chair nearer and I will tell you something. I 
am not certain that I should take this talisman back again, 
still I will do so for reasons which you shall learn presently. 

F 



62 HEART OF THE WORLD 

"Know, senor, that this broken gem is v at once the 
foundation-stone and the secret symbol of a great order, of 
which, although you have not been initiated into it, you 
are now one of the lords, seeing that the crowning and 
vital ceremony of the creation of a Lord of the Heart con- 
sists in the hanging of the symbol about his neck for the 
space of a minute only by myself, who am the chief lord 
and Keeper of the Heart for life, and you have worn it 
for ten whole days. 

" Before we part I will call a chapter of the order for 
even among these mour 'ains we have brethren and you 
shall be initiated into its ritual and raised to the rank of a 
chief lord, as is your right. Meanwhile I will instruct you 
briefly in its mysteries, as it is my bounden duty to do. 

"Understand, senor, that the first duty of the servant of 
the Heart is silence, and that silence I demand of you. 
Men have died ere now, senor ; yes, they have died on the 
rack in the dungeons of the Inquisition, and shrivelled as 
wizards in the fires of the stake, sooner than reveal those 
things that have been told them upon the faith of the 
Heart, against which the confessional itself cannot prevail 
no, not with the best of Catholics." 

" But suppose that a man should not keep silence, 
Ignatio, what then ? " he asked. 

" There is a land, senor," I answered, " where the most 
talkative grow dumb, and its borders can be crossed by all, 
even by the Lords of the Heart, for fearful is the doom of 
a false brother ! " 

" You mean that if I repeat anything I may hear, I shall 
be murdered." 

" Indeed, no, senor ; but you may happen to die. I 
speak on the Heart ; do you hear with the Ears ? " 

"I hear with the Ears," he answered, catching my 
meaning. 

"Very well, sefior, since you have now sworn secrecy to 
me by the most solemn oath that can pass the lips of man, 



THE LEGEND OF THE HEART 63 

I will speak to yon openly. This is the tale of the Broken 
Heart, so far as I know it, though how much of it is truth 
and how much is legend I cannot say : 

" You have heard the story of that white man, or god, 
sometimes called Quetzal by the Indians, and sometimes 
Cucumatz, who came to these lands in the far past and 
civilised their peoples ? Afterwards he vanished away in 
a ship, promising that when many generations had passed 
he would return again. 

" When he had gone, the empire which he created fell 
into the hands of two brothers, whose chief city was either 
at Palenque or in its neighbourhood, and the citizens of 
this empire, like we Christians, worshipped one good god, 
the true God, under the name of the Heart of Heaven, and 
to Him they offered few sacrifices save those of fruit and 
flowers. Now one of these brothers married a wife from 
another country a daughter of devils, very beautiful and 
a great witch. 

" Soon this woman, as in the story of the wives of Solo- 
mon and their lord, drew away the king, her husband, 
from the true faith to the worship of the gods of her own 
land, and brought it about that he oifered human sacrifice 
to them. Then there arose a great confusion in that coun- 
try, and the end of it was that the people divided them- 
selves into two parties, the worshippers of the Heart of 
Heaven and the worshippers of devils. 

" They made war upon each other, till many of their 
chief men were killed ; then they came to an agreement 
whereby the nation was sundered. Half of it, under that 
king who had married the woman, marched northwards, 
and became the fathers of the Aztecs and other tribes ; 
and half, the faithful worshippers of the Heart, remained 
in the Tobasco country. 

" Now from that day forward evil overtook both these 
peoples, for though the Aztecs flourished for a while, in 
the end Spaniards despoiled them. The worshippers of 



64 HEART OF THE WORLD 

the Heart also were driven from their cities by hordes of 
barbarians who rolled down upon them, and their faith 
perished, or seemed to perish." 

" But what has this history to do with the charm about 
your neck, Ignatio ? " he asked. 

"I will tell you. When Quetzal sailed away from his 
people, so says the legend, he left the stone, that once he 
had worn upon his brow, of which this is the half, to be 
a treasure to the kings who came after him. Also he set 
this fate upon it : that while the Heart remained un- 
broken, for so long should the people be one arid whole ; 
but if it came about that it was cut or shattered, they 
should be divided with it, to be no more one people until 
again the fragments were one stone. 

" Now when these king-brethren quarrelled and parted, 
they sawed the token asunder, as you see, each of them 
keeping a half, this half being that of him who married 
the woman. For generations it was worn by his descend- 
ants, and upon their death-beds passed on by them to an- 
other, or at times taken from their bodies after they were 
dead. 

" There are many stories told about the stone in the old 
days, and it is certain that he who had it was the real king 
of the country for the time being. At length it came into 
the hands of the great Guatemoc, last of the Aztec emper- 
ors, who, before the Spaniards hung him, found means to 
send it to his son, from whom it has come down to me." 

" To you ? AVhat have you to do with Guatemoc ?" 

" I am his lineal descendant, senor, the eleventh in the 
male line." 

" Then you ought to be Emperor of the Indians if every 
man had his rights, Ignatio." 

" That is so, senor, but of my own story I will tell you 
presently. Now of this stone. Through all the ages it 
has never been lost, and it is known in the land from end 
to end ; he who wears it for his life being called ' Keeper 



THE LEGEND OF THE HEART 65 

of the Heart/ and also ' Hope of those who wait/ since it 
may happen in his day that the two halves will come to- 
gether again/' 

" And what if they do ? " 

" Then, so says the legend, the Indians will once more 
be a mighty nation, and drive those who oppress them into 
the sea, as the wind drives dust." 

Now the senor rose from his chair and walked up and 
down the room. 

" Do you believe all this ? " he asked, suddenly. 

" Yes," I answered, " or the greater part of it. Indeed, 
if what I hear is true, the lost half of the talisman that 
has been missing for so many generations is in Mexico at 
this moment, and, so soon as I am well enough, I go to 
seek him who bears it, and who has come from far to find 
me. That is why we must part, senor." 

" Where has this man come from ? " he asked, eagerly. 

" I do not know for certain," I answered, " but I think 
that he has come from the sacred city of the Indians, the 
hidden Golden City which the Spaniards sought for but 
could not find, though it still exists among the mountains 
and deserts of the far interior, whither I hope to journey 
with him." 

" That still exists ! Ignatio, you must be mad. It 
never has existed except in the imagination." 

" You say so, senor, but I think differently. At least, 
I knew a man whose grandfather had seen it. He, the 
grandfather, was a native of San Juan Batista, in To- 
basco, and when he was young he committed some crime 
and fled inland to save his life. 

" All that befell him I do not know, but at length he 
found himself wandering by the shores of a great lake, 
somewhere in or beyond the country that is now known as 
Guatemala, and, being exhausted, he laid himself down to 
die there and fell asleep. 

" When he awoke, people were standing round him, like 



66 HEART OF THE WORLD 

the Indians to look at, but very light in colour, and beau- 
tifully dressed in white robes, with necklaces of emeralds 
and feather capes. These people put him on board a great 
canoe, and took him to a glorious city with a high pyra- 
mid in the centre of it, which was named Heart of the 
World. 

" Of this city he saw little, however, for its inhabitants 
kept him a prisoner, only from time to time he was 
brought before their king and elders, who sat in a hall 
filled with images of dead men fashioned in gold, and 
there was questioned as to the country whence he came, 
the tribes that dwelt in it, and more especially of the white 
men who ruled the land. 

" In that hall alone, so he said, there were more gold and 
precious stones than are to be found in all Mexico. AVhen 
he had nothing more to tell them, the people wished to kill 
him, fearing lest he should escape and bring upon them the 
white men who loved gold. The end of it was that he did 
escape by the help of a woman, who guided him back to- 
wards the sea, though she never came there, for she died 
upon the road. 

" Afterwards this man went to live in a little village near 
Palenque, where he also died, having revealed nothing of 
what he had seen, since he feared lest the vengeance of the 
People of the Heart should follow him. When he was dy- 
ing, he told his son, who told his son, who told the tale to 
me. Senor, it has been the dream of my life to visit that 
city, and now at last I think that I have found the clue 
which will lead me to it." 

" Why do you want to visit it, Ignatio ? " 

" To understand that, senor, you must know my his- 
tory." And I told him of the failure of the great plot and 
the part that I had played in it, all of which I have already 
set out, also of the secret hopes and ambitions of my life. 

" Senor," I added, " though I am beaten I am not yet 
crushed, and I still desire to build up a great Indian em- 



THE LEGEND OF THE HEART 67 

pire. I see by your face that you think me foolish. You 
may be right or I may be right. I may be pursuing truths 
or dreams, I may be sane and a redeemer, or insane and a 
fool. What does it matter ? I follow the light that runs 
before me ; will-o'-the-wisp or star, it leads to one end, and 
for me it is the light that I am born to follow. If you be- 
lieve nothing else, at least believe this, sefior, that I do not 
seek my own good or advancement, but rather that of my 
people. At the worst, I am not a knave, I am only a 
fool." 

" But how will you help your cause by visiting this city, 
supposing it to exist, Ignatio ? " 

"Thus, senor : these people among whom without doubt 
the old man of whom I have spoken, who is named Zibal- 
bay, is a chief or king are the true stock and head of all 
the Indian races, and when they learn my plans and whom 
I am, they will be glad to furnish me with means whereby 
I can bring them to their former empire." 

"And if they take another view of the matter, Igna- 
tio?" 

" Then I fail, that is all, and among so many failures 
one more will scarcely matter. I am like a swimmer who 
sees, or thinks that he sees, a single plank that may bear 
him to safety. Maybe he cannot reach that plank, or, if he 
reach it, maybe it will sink beneath his weight. At least, 
he has no other hope. 

"Senor, I have no other hope. There in the Golden 
City is untold wealth, for the man saw it, and without 
money, great sums of money, I am helpless, therefore I go 
thither to win the money. The ship has foundered under 
me, and with it the cargo of my ambitions and the work of 
my life ; so, being desperate, I fall back upon a desperate 
expedient. 

" First, I will seek this man, that the two halves of the 
Heart may come together, and the prophecy be fulfilled ; 
then, if it may be, I will travel with him to the City, Heart 



68 HEART OF THE WORLD 

of the World, careless whether I live or die, but deter- 
mined, if there is need, to die fighting for the fulfilment 
of the dream of an Indian empire Christian, regenerated, 
and stretching from sea to sea that I have followed all 
my days." 

" The dream, Ignatio ? Perhaps you name it well, yet 
few have such noble dreams. And now, who goes with you 
on this journey ? " 

" Who goes with me ? Molas, so far as the temple 
where the Indian is. After that, if I proceed, 110 one. 
Who would accompany a man grown old in failure, whom 
even those that love him deem a visionary, on such a des- 
perate quest ? Why, if I should dare to tell my projects 
even, men would mock me as children mock an idiot in the 
street. I go alone, seflor, perhaps to die." 

" As regards the dying, Ignatio, of course I can say 
nothing, since all men must die sooner or later, and the 
moment and manner of their end is in the hand of Provi- 
dence. But for the rest you shall not make this journey 
alone, that is, if you care to have me for a companion, for 
I will accompany you." 

" You, seftor, you. Think what it means : the certainty 
of every sort of danger, the risk of every kind of death, 
and at the end, the probability of failure. It is folly, 
sefior." 

" Ignatio," he answered, " I will be frank with you. 
Notwithstanding all the prophecies about the wonders that 
are to follow the reuniting of the Heart, and the messages 
from the old man in the temple, I think your scheme of 
building up an Indian empire greater than that which 
Cortez destroyed, as impracticable as it is grand, since the 
time has gone by when it could have been done, or perhaps 
it has not yet returned. 

" Before the Indians can rule again, they must forget 
the bitter lessons and the degradation of ages ; in short, 
they must be educated, Ignatio. Still, if you think other- 



THE LEGEND OF THE HEART 69 

wise, that is your affair ; you can only fail, and there are 
failures more glorious than most successes. Do you un- 
derstand me ? " 

" Perfectly, sefior." 

" Very well. And now as regards the search for this 
Golden City. To me the matter seems very vague, since 
your hopes of finding it are based upon a traveller's tale, 
told by a man who died seventy or eighty years ago, and 
the chance that a certain person, whom yon have not yet 
seen, has come from there, and is willing to guide you back 
to it. 

" Still, the prospect of hunting for that city pleases me, 
for I am an adventurer in my heart. If ever we get fur- 
ther than the forest country in Tabasco, where your friend 
with the token is waiting for you, our search will probably 
end in the leaving of our bones to decorate some wilderness 
or mountain top in the unknown regions of Guatemala. 

" But what of that ? I have no chick or child ; my 
death would matter nothing to any living soul ; for years I 
have worked hard with small results ; why should I not 
follow my natural bent and become an adventurer ? I can 
scarcely do worse than I have done, and I think that the 
way of life would suit me. 

" That mine you showed me is rich enough no doubt, 
but I have no capital to deal with it, and if I had, my ex- 
perience of the place was such that I never wish to set foot 
in it again. In short, I am ready to start for Tabasco, 
and the Sacred City, and wherever else you like, so soon as 
you are fit to travel. " 

" Do you swear that on the Heart, sefior ?" I asked. 

" By all means ; but I should prefer to give you my 
hand upon it." And he stretched out his hand, which I 
took. 

" Good. You swear on the Heart, and give me your 
hand the oath is perfect. We are comrades henceforth, 
senor ; for my part 1 ask no better one. I have nothing 



70 HEART OF THE WORLD 

more to say. I cannot promise that you will find this 
City, or that, if you find it, it will advantage you. I am 
an unlucky man, and it is more likely that, by yoking 
yourself with me, you will bring my misfortunes upon 
your head. This I swear, however, that I will be a true 
comrade to you, as you were to me yonder in the mine, 
and for the rest, the adventure must be its own reward." 



CHAPTER V 

THE BEGINNING OF THE QUEST 

SOMETHING more than a month from the day when the 
Sefior Strickland and I made our compact to search for the 
secret city of the Indians, we found ourselves, together with 
Molas, at Vera Cruz, waiting for a ship to take us to 
Frontera, where we proposed to disembark. This port we 
had chosen in preference to Campeche, although the latter 
was nearer to the ruins where we hoped to find the Indian 
Zibalbay, because from it we could travel in canoes up the 
Grrjalva and other rivers, unobserved by any save the 
natives. 

Things are changed now in these parts, but in those days" 
the white men who lived thereabouts beyond the circle of 
the towns were too often robbers, as Molas had found to 
his cost some few weeks before. 

At Vera Cruz we purchased such articles as were neces- 
sary to our journey, not many, for we could not be sure of 
finding means to carry them. Among them were ham- 
mocks, three guns that would shoot either ball or shot, 
with ammunition, as many muzzle-loading Colt's revolvers, 
the best that were to be had twenty years ago, some medi- 
cines, blankets, boots, and spare clothes. 



THE BEGINNING OF THE QUEST 7 1 

Also we took with ITS all the money that we possessed, 
amounting to something over fifteen hundred dollars in 
gold, which sum we divided between us, carrying it in belts 
about our middles. At Vera Cruz, where people are very 
curious about the business of others, we gave out that the 
Sefior Strickland was one of those strange Englishmen who 
love to visit old ruins, for which purpose he was travelling 
to Yucatan ; that I, Ignatio, was his guide and companion, 
and that Molas, my foster-brother, was our servant. 

Now we purposed to leave Vera Cruz by a fine Ameri- 
can vessel, a sailing ship, that, after touching at the ports 
along the coast, traded to Havana and New York. As it 
chanced, the departure of this ship was delayed for a week, 
so, being pressed for time and fearing lest we should 
catch the yellow fever that was raging in the town, unhap- 
pily for ourselves we took passage in a Mexican boat called 
the Santa Maria. 

She was an old sailing vessel of not more than two hun- 
dred and fifty tons burden, that had been converted by her 
owners into a paddle-wheel steamer, with the result that, 
except in favourable weather, she could neither sail nor 
steam with any speed or safety. Her business was to trade 
with passengers and cargo between Vera Cruz and the ports 
of Frontera and Campeche. 

" Where for ?" asked the agent of the Seflor Strickland, 
as he filled in the tickets. 

" Frontera," he answered. " Your boat stops there, 
does she not ?" 

" Oh ! certainly, seflor," he said, as he pocketed the dol- 
lars, and yet all the while this shameless rogue knew that 
she had orders to touch at Campeche, which is the furthest 
port, first, and return to Frontera a week later. But of 
this more in its place. 

That afternoon the Santa Maria, with us on board of 
her, was piloted out of the harbour of Vera Cruz, and we 
heard the pilot swearing because she would not answer 



72 HEART OF THE WORLD 

properly to her helm. Standing by the engines we noticed 
also that, though they had not been working for more than 
half an hour, it was found necessary to keep a stream of 
water in constant play upon the bearings. 

The sefior asked the reason of this of the man who was 
mate and engineer of the boat, and he answered, with a 
shrug, that sand had got into the machinery when she was 
steaming over the bar of the Grijalva river, but that he 
thought the bearings, should it please the Saints, would 
last this voyage, unless they had the bad luck to run into a 
norther, as you English call el Norte ; the fearful gales 
that in certain seasons of the year sweep over the Gulf of 
Mexico. 

"And if we 'run into a norther'?" he asked, where- 
upon the man made a grimace, crossed himself to avert the 
omen, and vanished down the stoke-hole. 

Now we began to feel sorry that we had not taken pas- 
sage in the American ship, since of late northers had been 
frequent, but as, for good or ill, we were on board the 
Santa Maria, we amused ourselves by studying our fellow- 
passengers. 

Of these there were several on board, perhaps twenty in 
all, Mexican landowners and officials returning to their 
haciendas and native towns after a visit to Vera Cruz, or 
the capital, some of them pleasant companions enough and 
others not so. Three or four of these gentlemen were 
accompanied by their wives, but the ladies had already re- 
tired to the bunks opening out of the cabin, where, al- 
though the sea was quite smooth, they could be heard 
suffering the pains of sickness. 

Among the passengers was one, a man of not more than 
thirty years of age, who particularly attracted our atten- 
tion because of the gorgeousness of his dress. In appear- 
ance he was large, handsome, and coarse, and he had In- 
dian blood in his veins, as was shown by the darkness of 
his colour and the thick black eyebrows that gave a true- 



THE BEGINNING OF THE QUEST 73 

ulent expression to his face. While I was wondering who he 
might be, Molas made a sign to me to come aside, and said : 

" You see yonder man with the silver buttons on his 
coat : he is Don Jose Moreno, the son of that Don Pe- 
dro Moreno who waylaid and robbed me of the nuggets 
which the old Indian gave me for the cost of my journey 
to find you. I heard at the time that he was away from 
the hacienda in Vera Cruz or Mexico, and now doubtless 
he returns thither. Beware of him, lord, and bid the 
Englishman to do the same, for, like his father, he is a bad 
man " and he told me certain things connected with him 
and his family. 

While Molas was talking, a bell had been rung for din- 
ner, but I waited till he had finished before going down. 
At the door of the cabin I met the captain, a stout man 
with a face like a full moon and a bland smile. 

" What do you seek, sefior ? " he asked. 

" My dinner, senor," I answered. 

" It shall be sent to you on the deck," he said, not with- 
out confusion. " I do not wish to be rude, sefior, but you 
know that these Mexicans I am a Spaniard myself and do 
not care hate to sit at meat with an Indian, so, if you in- 
sist upon coming in, there will be trouble." 

Now I heard, and though the insult was deep, it was one 
to which I was accustomed, for in this land, which belongs 
to them and where their fathers ruled, to be an Indian is 
to be an outcast. 

Therefore, not wishing to make a stir, I bowed and 
turned away. Meanwhile, it seems that the Sefior Strick- 
land, missing me in the cabin, asked the captain where I 
was, saying that perhaps I did not know that the meal was 
ready. 

"If you refer to your servant, the Indian," said the 
captain, "I met him at the door and sent him away. 
Surely the senor knows that we do not sit at table with 
these people." 



74 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" Captain/' answered the Seflor Strickland, " if my 
friend is an Indian, he is as good a gentleman as you or 
anybody else in this cabin ; moreover he has paid for a 
first-class fare and has a right to first-class accommodation. 
I insist upon a seat being provided for him at my side." 

" As you wish," answered the captain, smiling, for he 
was a man of peace, "only if he comes there will be 
trouble." And he ordered the steward to fetch me. 

Now this steward was an Indian who knew my rank. 
Therefore not wishing to offend me by repeating what had 
passed, he said simply that the captain sent his compli- 
ments and begged that I would come down to dinner. 
The end of it was that I went, though doubtfully, and, 
seeing me in the doorway the Seflor Strickland called to 
me in a loud voice, saying : 

" You are late for dinner, friend, but I have kept your 
place here by me. Sit down quickly or the food will be 
cold." 

I bowed to the company and obeyed, and then the 
trouble commenced, for all present had heard this talk. As 
I took my seat the Mexicans began to murmur, and the 
passenger who was next to me insolently moved his plate 
and glass away. Now almost opposite to me sat Don Jose 
Moreno, that man of whom Molas had told me. As I took 
my seat he consulted hastily with a neighbour on his 
right, then, addressing the captain, said in a loud voice : 

" There is some mistake ; it is not usual that Indian 
dogs should sit at the same table with gentlemen." 

The captain shrugged his shoulders and answered 
mildly : 

" Perhaps the seflor will settle the question with the 
English seflor on my left. To me it does not matter ; I 
am only a poor sailor, and accustomed to every sort of 
company." 

" Seflor Strickland," said Don Jose, " be so good as to 
order your servant to leave the cabin." 




'You shall pay for that, Englishman. 1 



THE BEGINNING OF THE QUEST J$ 

"Senor," he answered, for his temper was quick, "I 
will see you in hell before I do so." 

" Caramba," said the Mexican, laying a hand upon the 
knife in his belt, " you shall pay for that, Englishman." 

',' When and how you will, senor. I always pay my 
debts." 

Then the captain broke in, in a strange way. First he 
put his hand behind him, and, drawing a large pistol from 
his pocket, he laid it by his plate. 

" Seflors, both," he said in a soft voice and with a gentle 
smile, " I am loth to interfere in a quarrel of two esteemed 
passengers, but though I am only a poor sailor, it is my 
duty to see that there is no bloodshed on board this vessel. 
Therefore, much as I regret it, I shall be obliged to shoot 
dead the first man who draws a weapon," and he cocked 
the pistol. 

Now the Mexican scowled, and the Senor Strickland 
laughed outright, for it was a curious thing to hear a man 
with the face of a sheep growl and threaten like a wolf. 
Meanwhile I had risen, for this insult was more than I 
could bear. 

" Senors," I said, speaking in Spanish, " as I see that 
my presence is unwelcome to the majority of those here, I 
hasten to withdraw myself. But before I go I wish to say 
something, not by way of boasting, but to justify my 
friend, the English gentleman, in his action on my behalf. 
However well-born you may be, my descent is nobler and 
more ancient than yours, and therefore it should be no 
shame to you to sit at table with me. Least of all should 
the Don Jose Moreno, whose father is a murderer, a high- 
way robber, and a man without shame, and whose mother 
was a half-bred mestizo, slut, dare to be insolent to me who, 
as any Indian on board this ship can tell you, am a prince 
among my own people." 

Now every eye was fixed upon Don Jose. His sallow 
complexion turned to a whitish green as he listened to my 

G 



76 HEART OF THE WORLD 

words, and for a moment he sank back in his chair over- 
come with rage. Then he sprang up, once more gripping 
at his knife. 

" You dog ! " he gasped, " let me but come at you and 
I'll cut your lying tongue out." 

" You will do nothing of the sort, Don Jose Moreno/' I 
answered, fixing my eyes upon his face ; " what I have 
said of your father is true ; more, there is a man on board 
this ship whom, not three months since, he robbed with 
violence. If the gentlemen your companions would like to 
hear the story I can tell it to them. For the rest, I am 
well able to defend myself. Moreover this vessel is manned 
by Indians who know me, and should any harm come to 
me or to my friend, the Seflor Strickland, I warn you that 
you will not reach your home alive. Gentlemen, I salute 
you," and I bowed and left the cabin. 

" Friend, I thank you," I said to the seflor, when he 
came upon deck after the dinner was ended. " Knowing 
who I am and seeing how, in common with my race, I am 
accustomed to be treated by such hounds as these, can you 
wonder that I am not fond of Mexicans ? " 

"No, Ignatio,"he answered ; "but all the same I advise 
you to be careful of this Don Jose. He is not a man to 
kiss the stick that beats him, and he will make an end of 
you, and me too for the matter of that, if he can. " 

"Do not be afraid, senor," I answered laughing ; "be- 
sides the steward and Molas there are twenty Indians on 
board, most of them belonging to the tribe that dwells be- 
yond Campeche, the finest race in Mexico. Two of these 
men are associates of the Heart, and all the rest know my 
rank, and will watch that man day and night so that he can 
never come near us without finding them ready for him. 
Only we shall do well to sleep on deck and not below." 

That night we spent, wrapped in our serapes, upon two 
coils of rope on the forecastle of the Santa Maria, with 
Molas sleeping close behind us. It was a lovely night and 



THE BEGINNING OF THE QUEST 77 

we whiled away the hours in telling tales to each other of 
our adventures in past years, and in wonderings as to those 
that lay before us, till at length, fearing nothing, for we 
knew that our safety was watched over, we fell asleep, to be 
awakened by the sudden stoppage of the vessel. 

The day was on the point of dawn ; a beautiful and pearly 
light lay upon the quiet surface of the sea ; above us the 
stars still shone faintly in the heavens, but to the east the 
cloud-banks were tinged with pink and violet. We sat up 
wondering what had happened, and saw the captain, 
wrapped in a dirty blanket, engaged in earnest conversa- 
tion with the engineer, who wore a still dirtier shirt, and 
nothing else. Hearing that something was wrong, the 
Senor James went to the captain and asked him why we 
had stopped. 

" Because the engines won't go any more, and there is no 
wind to sail with," he answered politely. " But have no 
fear, my comrade says that he can mend them up. He has 
nursed them for years and knows their weak points." 

" Certainly there is not much to fear in weather like 
this," said the senor, " except delay." 

"Nothing, nothing," replied the captain, glancing 
anxiously at a narrow black band of cloud, that lay on 
the rim of the horizon beneath the fleecy masses in which 
the lights of dawn were burning. 

" Do you think that we are likely to have a norther ? " 
asked the senor in his blunt white man's way. 

" No, no," exclaimed the captain, crossing himself at 
the name of that evil power el Norte, " but quien sabe ! 
God makes the weather, not we poor sailors." And with 
another glance at the threatening line of cloud, he hurried 
away as though to avoid further conversation. 

Presently the engines began to work again, though halt- 
ingly, like a lame mule, and as the morning drew on the 
day became clear and the thin black cloud vanished from 
the horizon. Towards three o'clock in the afternoon Molas, 



?8 HEART OF THE WORLD 

pointing to a low coast-line, and a spot on the sea where 
the ocean swell showed tipped with white, told us that 
yonder was the bar of the Grijalva river, and that behind 
it lay the village of Frontera, our destination. 

" Good/' said the seflor, " then I think that I will get 
my things on deck," and going to his cabin he brought up 
a sack containing some wraps and food. 

" Why do you fetch your baggage ? " asked the captain 
presently, " you may want it to-night." 

"That is why I brought it up/' he answered. "I do 
not wish to land at Frontera with nothing." 

" Land at Frontera, sefior ? No one will land at Fron- 
tera from this ship for another six or seven days. We pass 
Frontera and run straight on to Campeche, which, by the 
blessing of the Saints, we shall reach to-morrow evening." 

" But I have taken tickets for Frontera," said the sefior. 
" The agent gave them to me, and I insist upon being put 
on shore there." 

" That is quite right, sefior. All being well we shall call 
at Frontera this day week, and then you can go ashore 
without extra charge, but before this my orders are to put 
into no port except Campeche, that is, unless a norther 
forces me to do so." 

" May the norther sink you, your ship, your agents, and 
every thing you have to do with," answered the sefior in so 
angry a voice, that the Mexican passengers who were lis- 
tening began to laugh at the Englishman's discomfiture, 
though the more thoughtful of them crossed themselves to 
avert the evil omen. 

Then followed a storm, for the sefior whose temper, as 
I have said, was not of the coolest raged and swore in no 
measured terms ; the captain shrugged his shoulders and 
apologised ; the passengers smiled ; and, seeing that there 
was no help for the matter, I looked on patiently after 
the manner of my race. At length the captain fled, wiping 
his brow and exclaiming : 



THE BEGINNING OF THE QUEST 79 

" What manner of men are these English that they make 
such a trouble about a little time ? Mother of Heaven ! 
why are they always in a hurry ? Is not to-morrow as good 
as to-day and better ? " 

That evening we dined together upon deck ; for neither 
of us were in any good mood to descend to the cabin and 
meet Don Jose Moreno, of whom we had seen nothing 
since the previous night. As we were finishing our meal 
the light faded and the sky grew curiously dark, while 
suddenly to the north there appeared a rim of cloud similar 
to that which we had seen upon the horizon at dawn, but 
now it was of an angry red and glowed like the smoke from 
a smelting-furnace at night. 

" The sky looks very strange, Ignatio," said the senor to 
me, and at that moment we heard Molas and an Indian 
sailor speaking together in brief words. 

" El Norte" said Molas, pointing towards the red rim 
of light. 

" Si, el Norte," answered the sailor as he went towards 
the cabin. 

Presently the captain hurried up the companion-ladder 
and studied the horizon, of which the aspect seemed to 
frighten him. In another minute the mate joined him, 
appearing from the engine hatch, and the two of them be- 
gan to converse, or rather to dispute. I was sitting near, 
unobserved in the darkness, and, so far as I could gather, 
the mate was in favour of putting the ship about and run- 
ning for Frontera, from which port we were now distant 
some forty miles. 

On the other hand, the captain said that if they did so 
and the norther came up, it would catch them before they 
got there, and wreck them upon the bar of the Grijalva 
river ; but he added that he did not believe there would 
be any norther, and if by ill-luck it should come, their best 
course was to stand for the open sea and ride it out. 

The mate answered that this would be an excellent plan 



80 HEART OF THE WORLD 

if the ship were staunch and the engines to be relied on, 
but he declared loudly that they might as well try to 
sail a boat with a mast made of cigarettes, as attempt to 
lie head on to a norther with leaking boilers, worn-out en- 
gines, and a strained paddle-wheel. 

After this the discussion grew fierce, and as full of oaths 
as a shark's mouth with teeth, but in the end the two 
sailors determined that their safest plan would be to hold 
on their present course, and, if necessary, round Point Xi- 
calango and take shelter behind Carmen Island, or, if they 
could, in the mouth of the Usumacinto river. Then they 
parted, the captain adjuring the mate to say nothing of 
the state of the weather to the passengers, and above all to 
that accursed Englishman, who had called this misfortune 
upon them because he was not put off at Frontera, and 
whose evil eye brought bad luck. 

Another two hours passed without much change, except 
that the night grew darker and darker, and stiller and yet 
more still. The Senor Strickland, who had been walking 
up and down the deck smoking a cigar, came and sat be- 
side me on a coil of rope, and asked me if I thought the 
norther was coming. 

" Yes, it is coming," I answered, " and I fear that it 
will sink us, at least so say the Indian sailors." 

" You take the idea of being drowned like a puppy in a 
sack very coolly, Ignatio. How far are we from Point Xi- 
calango ? " 

" About twelve miles, I believe, and I take it coolly be- 
cause there is no use in making an outcry. God will pro- 
tect us if He chooses, and if He chooses He will drown us. 
It is childish to struggle against destiny." 

" A true Indian creed, Ignatio," he answered ; " you 
people sit down and say ' It is fate, let us accept it ' but 
one that I and the men of my nation do not believe in. If 
they had done so, instead of being the first country in the 
world to-day, England long ago would have ceased to exist, 



THE BEGINNING OF THE QUEST 8 1 

for many a time she has stood face to face with Fate and 
beaten her. For my part, if I must die, I prefer to die 
fighting. Tell me, are any of these people to be relied on 
if it comes to a pinch ? " 

" The Indian sailors are Campeche men and brave, also 
they know the coast, and if need be they will do anything 
that I tell them. For the rest I cannot say, but the cap- 
tain seems to understand something of his business. Look 
and listen ! " 

As I spoke a vivid flash of lightning pierced the heavens 
above us, followed by a deafening peal of thunder. In its 
fierce and sudden glare we could see the coast some three 
or four miles away, and almost ahead of us the bolder out- 
line of Point Xicalango. The water about our ship was 
dead calm, and slipped past her sides like oil ; the smoke 
in the funnel rose almost straight into the air, where at a 
certain height it twisted round and round ; and a sail that 
had been hoisted flapped to and fro for lack of wind to 
draw it. 

A mile or so to windward, however, was a different sight, 
for there came the norther, rushing upon us like a thing 
alive ; in front of it a line of white billows torn from the 
quiet surface of the sea, and behind it, fretted by little 
lightnings, a dense wall of black cloud stretching from the 
face of ocean to the arc of heaven. 

Now the captain, who was on deck, saw his danger, for 
if those billows caught us broadside on we must surely 
founder. In the strange silence that followed the boom of 
the thunder, he shouted to the helmsman to bring the ship 
head on to the sea, and to the sailors to batten down the 
after-hatch, the only one that remained open, shutting the 
passengers, except ourselves and Molas, into the cabin. 

His orders were obeyed well and quickly, the Santa Ma- 
ria came round and began to paddle towards the open 
water and the advancing line of foam. It was terrible to 
see her, so small a thing, driving on thus into what ap- 



82 HEART OF THE WORLD 

peared to be the very jaws of death. Now the unnatural 
quiet was broken, a low moaning noise thrilled through the 
air, the waters about the ship's side began to seethe and 
hiss, and spray flying ahead of the wind cut our faces like 
the lash of a whip. . 

A few more seconds and something white and enormous 
could be seen looming above our bows, and the sight of it 
caused the captain, whose face looked pale as death in the 
gleam of the lightnings, to shriek another order to his 
crew. 

"Lie down and hold on tight to the rope," I said to 
the Sefior Strickland and Molas, who were beside me, 
" here comes el Norte, and he brings death for many of us 
on board this ship." 



CHAPTER VI 

"EL NORTE" 

ANOTHER moment and el Norte had come in strength. 
First a sudden rush of wind struck the vessel, causing her 
to shiver, and with a sharp report rending from its fasten- 
ings the jib, which had not been furled. This gust went 
howling by, and after it rolled the storm. 

To us it seemed that the Santa Maria dived head first 
into a huge wave, a level line of white illumined with 
lightnings and swept forward by the hurricane, for in an 
instant a foot of foaming water tore along her deck from 
stem to stem, sweeping away everything movable upon it, 
including two Indian sailors. We should have gone with 
the rest had we not clung with all our strength to the rope 
coiled about the foremast, but as it was we escaped with a 
wetting. 

For a while the ship stood quite still, and it seemed as 



"EL NORTE" 83 

though she were being pressed into the deep by the weight 
of water on her decks, but as this fell from her in cata- 
racts, she rose again and ploughed forward. Fortunately 
the first burst of the tempest was also the most terrible, 
and it had not taken her broadside on, for one or two more 
such waves would have swamped us. 

After it had passed shorewards, driven by the hurricane 
wind, for a little space there was what by comparison 
might be called a lull, then the Santa Maria met the full 
weight of the norther. For a while she forged ahead 
against the shrieking wind and vast succeeding seas, ship- 
ping such a quantity of water that presently the captain 
found it necessary to reduce her engines to half speed, 
which it was hoped would suffice to give her way without 
filling her. 

Now less water came aboard, but on the other hand, as 
was soon evident, the vessel began to drift towards the 
Point Xicalango, arid from this moment it became clear 
that only a miracle could save her. For an hour or more 
the Santa Maria kept up a gallant and unequal fight, 
being constantly pressed backwards by the might of the 
storm, till at length we could see in the glare of the light- 
ning that the breakers of the Point were raging not two 
hundred paces from her stern. The captain saw them 
also and made a last effort. Shifting the vessel's bow a 
little, so that the seas struck her on the port quarter, he 
gave the order of "Full steam ahead," and once more we 
drove forward. 

Before and since that day I have made many voyages 
across the Gulf of Mexico in all weathers, but never have 
I met with such an experience as that which followed. 
The ship plunged and strained and rocked, lifting now 
her bow and now her stern high above the waves, till it 
seemed as though she must fall to pieces, while water in 
tons rushed aboard of her at every dip, which, as she 
righted herself, streamed through the broken bulwarks. 



84 HEART OF THE WORLD 

Slowly, very slowly, we were forging away from the 
Point and out into the channel which lies between it and 
Carmen Island, but the effort was too fierce to last. Pre- 
sently, after a succession of terrible pitchings, one paddle- 
wheel suddenly ceased to thrash the water, while the other 
broke to pieces, and a faint cry from below told those on 
deck that the worn-out machinery had collapsed. 

Now we were in the mid-race or channel, through which 
the boiling current, driven by the fury of the gale and the 
push of the tide, tore at a speed of fifteen or sixteen knots, 
carrying the Santa Maria along with it as a chip of wood 
is carried down a flooded gutter. Twice she whirled right 
round, for now that her machinery had gone there was no 
power to keep her head to the waves, and on the second 
occasion, as she lay broadside to them, a green sea came 
aboard of her that swept her decks almost clean, taking 
away with it every boat except the cutter, which fortu- 
nately was slung upon davits to starboard and out of its 
reach. 

Crouching under shelter of the mast, again the three of 
us clung to our rope, nor did we leave go although the 
water ground us against the deck, covering us for so long 
that before our heads were clear of it we felt as though 
our lungs must burst. As it chanced, what remained of 
the starboard bulwarks was carried away by the rush, 
allowing the sea to escape, or the ship must have foun- 
dered at once. But it had done its work, for the engine- 
room hatchway and the cabin light were stove in, and the 
Santa Maria was half full of water. 

Before a second sea could strike her, her nose swung 
round, and in this position she was washed along the race, 
her deck not standing more than four feet above the level 
of the waves. 

Now from time to time the moon shone out between 
rifts in the storm clouds, revealing a dreadful scene. Frag- 
ments of the little bridge still remained, and to them was 



"EL NORTE" 85 

lashed the large body of the captain in an upright position, 
though, as he neither spoke nor stirred, we never learned 
whether he was only paralysed by terror, or had been killed 
by a blow from the funnel as it fell. 

You will remember, my friend, that he had ordered the 
passengers to be battened down, and there in the cabin 
they remained, twenty or more of them, until the hatch- 
ways were stove in. Then, with the exception of one or 
two, who were drowned by the water that poured down 
upon them, they rushed up the companion, men and 
women together, for they could no longer stay below, and, 
shrieking, praying, and blaspheming, clung to fragments 
of the bulwarks, shrouds of the mast, or anything which 
they thought could give them protection against the piti- 
less waves. 

Awful were the wails of the women, who, clad only in 
their night-dresses, now quitted their bunks for the first 
time since they entered them in the harbour of Vera Cruz. 
Overcome by fear, and having no knowledge of the dangers 
of the deep, these poor creatures flung themselves at full 
length upon the deck, striving to keep a hold of the slip- 
pery boards, whence one by one they rolled into the ocean 
as the vessel lurched, or were carried away by the seas that 
pooped her. 

Some of the men followed them to their watery grave, 
others, more self-possessed, crept forward, attempting to 
escape the waves that broke over the stern, but none made 
any effort to save them, and indeed it would have been im- 
possible so to do. 

Among those who crawled forward to where we and some 
of the Indian sailors were clinging to the rope that was 
coiled round the stump of the broken foremast, was Don 
Jose Moreno. Even in his terror, which was great, this 
man could still be ferocious, for, recognising the seflor, he 
yelled : 

" Ah ! maldonado evil-gifted one you called down the 



86 HEART OF THE WORLD 

norther upon us. Well, at least you shall die with the 
rest," and, suddenly drawing his long knife, he rose to his 
knees, and, holding the rope with one hand, attempted to 
drive it into the senor 's body with the other. Doubtless 
he would have succeeded in his wickedness had not an 
Indian boatswain, who was near, bent forward and struck 
him so sharply on the arm with his clenched fist that the 
knife flew from his hand. In trying to recover it Don 
Jose fell face downwards on the deck, where he lay making 
no further effort at aggression. 

Afterwards the senor told me, such was the horror and 
confusion of the scene, that, at the time, he scarcely 
noticed this incident, though every detail came back to 
him on the morrow, and with it a great wonder that 
even when death was staring them in the face, the 
Indians did not forget their promise to watch over our 
safety. 

Meanwhile, swept onward by the tide and gale, the San- 
ta Maria, waterlogged and sinking, rushed swiftly to her 
doom. Our last hour was upon us, and for a space this 
knowledge seemed to benumb the mind of the Senor 
Strickland, who crouched at my side, as the wet and cold 
had benumbed his body. Nor was this strange, for it 
seemed terrible to perish thus. 

" Can we do nothing ?" he said to me at length. " Ask 
the Indians if there is any hope." 

Putting my face close to the ear of the boatswain, I 
spoke to him, then shouted back : 

" He says that the current is taking ns round the point 
of the island, and if the ship weathers it, we shall come 
presently into calmer water, where a boat might live, if 
there is one left and it can be launched. He thinks, how- 
ever, that we must sink." 

When the sefior heard this he hid his face in his hands, 
and doubtless began to say his prayers, as I did also. 
Soon, however, we ceased even from that effort, for we 



"EL NORTE" 87 

were rounding the point and once more the seas were 
breaking on and over the vessel's sides. 

For a few minutes there was a turmoil that cannot be 
described ; then, although the wind still shrieked overhead, 
we felt that we were in water which seemed almost calm to 
us. The ship no longer pitched and rolled, she only 
rocked as she settled before sinking, while the moon, shin- 
ing out between the clouds, showed that what had been 
her bulwarks were not more than two or three feet above 
the level of the sea. 

Six Indians, our three selves, Don Jose, who seemed to 
be senseless, and the body of the captain lashed to the 
broken bridge, alone remained of the crew and passengers 
of the Santa Maria. The rest had been swept away, but 
there close to us the cutter still hung upon the davits. 

The seflor saw it, and I think that he remembered his 
saying of a few hours before, that he would die fighting ; 
at least he cried : 

" The ship is sinking. To the boat, quick \" and, run- 
ning to the cutter, he climbed into her, as did I, Molas, 
and the six Indian sailors. 

She was full of water almost to the thwarts, which could 
only be got rid of by pulling out the wooden plug in her 
bottom. 

Happily the boatswain, that same man who had struck 
the knife from the hand of Don Jose, knew where to look 
for this plug, and, being a sailor of courage and resource, 
he was able to loose it, so that presently the water was 
pouring from her in a stream thick as a hawser. Mean- 
while, urged to it by the hope of escape, the other Indians 
were employed in getting out the oars, and in loosening the 
tackles before slipping them altogether when enough water 
had run out to allow the boat to swim. 

" Get the plug back," said the seflor, " the vessel is sink- 
ing, you must bale the rest." 

Half a minute more and it was done ; then, at a word 



88 

from the boatswain, the sailors lowered away they had 
not far to go and we were afloat, and, better still, quite 
clear of the ship. 

Scarcely had they brought the head of the cutter round 
and pulled three or four strokes, when from the deck of the 
Santa Maria there came the sound of a man's voice crying 
for help, and by the light of the moon we discovered the 
figure of Don Jose Moreno clinging to the broken bul- 
warks, that now were almost awash. 

" For the love of God, come back to me ! " he screamed. 

The oarsmen hesitated, but the boatswain said, with an 
Indian oath : 

" Pull on and let the dog drown." 

It seemed as if Don Jose heard him, at least he raised so 
piteous a wailing that the seflor's hearty which was always 
over-tender, was touched by it. 

" We cannot desert the man," he answered, "put back 
for him." 

" He tried to murder you just now," shouted the boat- 
swain, "and if we go near the ship, she will take us down 
with her." 

Then he turned to me and asked, " Do you command us 
to put back, lord ? " 

" Since the sefior wills it, I command you," I answered. 
" We must save the man and take our chance." 

" He commands whom we must obey," shouted the boat- 
swain again ; "put back, my brothers." 

Sullenly, but submissively, the Indians backed water till 
we lay almost beneath the counter of the vessel, that wal- 
lowed in the trough of the swell before she went down. 
On the deck, clinging to the stays of the mast, stood Don 
Jose his straight oiled hair beat about his face, his gor- 
geous dress was soaked and disordered. 

" Save me ! " he yelled hoarsely, " save me ! " 

" Throw yourself into the sea, senor, and we will pick 
you up." 



" EL NORTE" 89 

" I dare not," was the answer, " come aboard and fetch 
me." 

"Does the sefior still wish us to stay ?" asked the boat- 
swain, calmly. 

" Listen, you cur," shouted the senor, " the ship is sink- 
ing and will take us with it. At the word ' three/ give 
way, men. Now will you come, or not ? One, two " 

" I come," said the Mexican, and, driven to it by de- 
spair, he cast himself into the sea. 

With difficulty the sefior, assisted by an Indian with a 
boathook, succeeded in getting hold of him as he was 
washed past on the swell. I confess that I would have no 
hand in the affair, since may I be forgiven the sin my 
charity was not true enough to make me wish to save this 
villain. There, however, the matter rested for the pres- 
ent, as they could not stop to pull him into the boat, for 
just then the deck of the Santa Maria burst with a rend- 
ing sound, and she began to go down bodily. 

" Row for your lives," shouted the boatswain, and they 
rowed, dragging Don Jose in the wake of the cutter. 

Down went the Santa Maria, bow first, making a hollow 
in the sea that sucked us back towards her. For a mo- 
ment the issue hung doubtful, for the whirlpool caused by 
the vanished vessel was strong and almost engulfed us, but 
in the end the stout arms of the Indians conquered and 
drew our boat clear. 

So soon as this great danger had gone by, the sailors with 
much labour lifted Don Jose into the cutter, where he lay 
gasping but unharmed. 

Then arose the question of what we could possibly do to 
save our lives. 

We were lying under the lee of Carmen Island, which 
sheltered us somewhat from the fury of the norther, and we 
might either try to land upon this island, or to put about 
and run for the mouth of the Usamacinto river. There 
was a third course : to keep the boat's head to the seas, if 



90 HEART OF THE WORLD 

that were possible, and let her drift till daylight. In the 
end this was what we determined to do. 

Indeed, while we were discussing the question it was set- 
tled for us, for suddenly the rain began to .fall in torrents, 
blotting out such moonlight as there was ; and to land in 
this darkness would have been impossible, even if the nat- 
ure of the beach allowed of it. Therefore we lay to and 
gave our thoughts and strength to the task of preventing 
the waves, which became more and more formidable as we 
drifted beyond the shelter of the island, from swamping or 
oversetting us. 

It was a great struggle, and had it not been that the heavy 
rain beat down the sea?, we could never have lived till 
morning. As it was we must have been swamped many 
times over but for the staunchness of the boat, which, for- 
tunately, was a new one, and the seamanship and ceaseless 
vigilance of the Indian boatswain who commanded her. 
For hour after hour he crouched in the bow of the cutter, 
staring through the sheets of rain and the darkness with 
his hawk-like eyes, and shouting directions to the crew as 
he heard or caught sight of a white-crested billow rolling 
down upon us, that presently would fling us upwards to 
sink deep into the trough on its further side, sometimes 
half filling the boat with water, which must be baled out 
before the next sea overtook us. 

Afterwards the sefior told me that, knowing it to be the 
nature of Indians to submit to evil rather than to struggle 
against it, he wondered how it came about that these men 
faced the fight so gallantly, instead of throwing down their 
oars and suffering themselves to be drowned. I also was 
somewhat astonished till presently the matter was ex- 
plained, for once, when a larger sea than those that went 
before had almost filled us, the boatswain called out to his 
companions : 

" Be brave, my brothers, and fear nothing. The Keeper 
of the Heart is with us, and death will flee him." 






" EL NORTE" 91 

To the sefior, however, this comfort seemed cold, since 
he did not believe that any talisman could save us from the 
powers of the sky and sea, nor indeed did I. Wet and half 
frozen as he was, his nerve broken by the terrible scenes 
that we had witnessed upon the lost ship, and by thoughts 
of the many who had gone down with her, his spirit, so he 
told me, failed him at last. 

He gave no outward sign of his inward state indeed ; he 
did not follow the example of the Mexican, who lay in the 
water at the bottom of the boat, groaning, weeping, and 
confessing his sins, which seemed to be many. Only he 
sat still and silent and surrendered himself to destiny, till 
by degrees his forces, mental and bodily, deserted him and 
he sank into a torpor. It was little wonder, for rarely have 
shipwrecked men been in a more hopeless position. The 
blinding rain, the bewildering darkness, the roaring wind 
and sea, all combined to destroy us while we drifted in our 
frail craft we knew not whither. 

As minute after minute of that endless night went by, 
our escape seemed to become more impossible, for each took 
with it something of the strength and mental energy of 
those who fought so bravely against the doom that over- 
shadowed us. For my part, I was sure that my hour had 
come, but this did not trouble me overmuch, since my life 
had not been so happy or successful that I grieved at the 
thought of losing it. Moreover, ever since I became a man 
it has been my daily endeavour to prepare my mind for 
Death, and so to live that I should not have to fear the 
hour of his coming. 

In truth it seems to me that without such preparation 
the life of any man who thinks must be one long wretched- 
ness, seeing that at the last, strive as he may, fate will 
overtake him, and that there is no event in our lives which 
can compare in importance with the inevitable end. We 
live not to escape from death, bat in order that we may 
die ; this is the great issue and object of our existence. 

H 



92 HEART OF THE WORLD 

Still, Death is terrible, more especially when we are called 
upon to await him hour after hour amid the horror and tur- 
moil of shipwreck. 

Therefore I was very thankful when, having flung my 
scrape about the form of my friend, at length I also was 
overcome by cold and exhaustion, and after a space of 
time, in which the present seemed to fade from me, taking 
with it all fears and hopes of the future, and the past alone 
possessed me, peopled by the dead, I sank into unconscious- 
ness or swoon. 

How long I remained in this merciful state of oblivion I 
do not know, but I was roused from it by Molas, who 
shook me and called into my ear with a voice that trem- 
bled "with cold or joy, or both : 

" Awake, awake, we are saved \" 

" Saved ? " I said, confusedly. " What from ? " 

"From death in the sea. Look, lord." 

Then with much pain, for tlie salt spray had congealed 
upon my face like frost, I opened my eyes to find that the 
morning was an hour old, and though the skies were still 
leaden we were no longer at sea, but floated on the waters 
of a river, whereof the bar roared behind us. 

" Where are we ? " I asked. 

" In the Usumacinto river, thanks be to God ! " an- 
swered Molas. " We have been driven across the bay in 
the dark, and at the dawn found ourselves just outside the 
breakers. Somehow we passed them safely, and there be- 
fore us is the blessed land." 

I looked at the bank of the river clothed with reeds and 
grasses, and the noble palm-trees that grew among them. 
Then I looked at my companions. The Seilor Strickland 
lay as though he were dead beneath the serape that I had 
thrown over him, his head resting on the thwarts, but the 
Mexican, Don Jose, was sitting up in the bottom of the 
boat and staring wildly at the shore. 

As for the Indians, the men to whom we owed our lives, 



"EL NORTE" 93 

they were utterly worn out. Two of them appeared to have 
swooned where they sat, and I saw that their hands were 
bleeding from the friction" of the oars. Three others lay 
gasping beneath the seats, but Molas held the tiller at my 
side, and the boatswain still sat upright in the bow where 
he had faced death for so many dreadful hours. 

" Say, lord," he asked, turning his face that was hollow 
with suspense and suffering, and white with encrusted salt, 
to speak to me, " can you row ? If so, take the oars and 
pull us to the bank while Molas steers, for our arms will 
work no more." 

Then I struggled from my seat, and with great efforts, 
for every movement caused me pain, I pulled the cutter to 
the bank, and as her bows struck against it, the sun broke 
through the thinning clouds. 

So soon as the boat was made fast, Molas and I lifted 
the sefior from her, and, laying him on the bank, we re- 
moved his clothes so that the sun might play upon his 
limbs, which were blue with cold. As the clouds melted 
and the warmth increased, I saw the blood begin to creep 
beneath the whiteness of his skin, which was drawn with 
the wet and wind, and rejoiced, for now I knew that he 
did but sleep, and that the tide of life was rising in his 
veins again, as in my own. 

Whilst we sat thus warming ourselves in the sunlight, 
some Indians appeared belonging to a ranclio, or village, 
half a league away. On learning our misfortunes and who 
we were, these men hurried home to bring us food, having 
first pointed out to us a pool of sweet rain-water, of which 
we stood in great need, for our throats were dry. When 
they had been gone nearly an hour, the sefior awoke and 
asked for drink, which I gave him in the baling-bowl. 
Next he inquired where we were and what had happened 
to us. When I had told him he hid his face in his hands 
for a while, then lifted it and said : 

"I am a fool and a boaster, Ignatio. I said that I 



94 HEART OF THE WORLD 

would die fighting, and it is these men who have fought 
and saved my life while I swooned like a child." 

"I did the same, seiior," I answered;- "only those who 
were working at the oars could keep their senses, for 
labour warmed them somewhat. Come to the river and 
wash, for now your clothes are dry again," and throwing 
the serape over his shoulders, I led him to the water. 

As we climbed down the bank we met the boatswain, 
and the senor said, holding out his hand to him : 

"You are a brave man and you have saved all our lives." 

"No, senor, not I/' answered the Indian. "You forget 
that with us was the Keeper of the Heart, and the Heart 
that has endured so long, cannot be lost. This we knew, 
and therefore we laboured on, well assured that our toil 
would not be in vain." 

" I shall soon begin to believe in that talisman of yours 
myself, Ignatio," said the seiior shrugging his shoulders ; 
" certainly it did us good service last night." 

Then he washed, and by the time he had dressed him- 
self, women arrived from the ranclio bearing with them 
baskets laden with tortillas or meal cakes, frijole beans, a 
roast kid, and a bottle of good agua ardiente, the brandy 
of this country. On these provisions we fell to thankfully, 
and, before we had finished our meal, the alcalde, or head 
man of the village, presented himself to pay his respects 
and to invite us to his house. 

Now I whispered to Molas, who had some acquaintance 
with this man, to take him apart and discover my rank to 
him, and to learn if perchance he had any tidings of that 
stranger whom we came to visit, the doctor Zibalbay. He 
nodded and obeyed, and after a while 1 rose and followed 
him behind some trees, where the alcalde, who was of our 
brotherhood, greeted me with reverence. 

" I have news, my lord," said Molas. " This man says 
that he has heard of the old Indian and his daughter, and 
that but this morning one who has travelled dowu the 



" THE HACIENDA" 95 

river told him how some five or six days ago they were 
both of them seized by Don Pedro Moreno, the father of 
Don Jose yonder, and imprisoned at the hacienda of Santa 
Cruz, where, dead or alive, they remain." 

Now I thought a while, then, sending for the Sefior 
James, I told him what we had learnt. 

" But what can this villain want to do with an old 
Indian and his daughter ? " he asked. 

" The sefior forgets," said Molas, " that Don Pedro 
robbed me of the gold which the doctor gave me, and that 
in my folly I told him from whom it came. Doubtless he 
thinks to win the secret of the mine whence it was dug, 
and of the mint where it was stamped with the sign of the 
Heart. Also there is the daughter, whom some men might 
value above all the gold in Mexico. Now, lord, I fear 
that your journey is fruitless, since those who become Don 
Pedro's guests are apt to stay with him for ever." 

" That, I think, we must take the risk of," said the 
sefior. 

" Yes," I answered : " having come so far to find this 
stranger, we cannot turn back now. At least we have 
lived through worse dangers than those which await us at 
Santa Cruz." 



CHAPTER VII 
"THE HACIENDA" 

RETURNING to the place where we had eaten, we found the 
alcalde talking with the sailors as to their plans. On see- 
ing us the boatswain advanced, and said that, if it was our 
pleasure, he and his companions proposed to rest for a few 
days at the neighbouring rancho and then to row the boat 
along the coast to Campeche, which they hoped in favour- 



g6 HEART OF THE WORLD 

able weather to reach in sixty hours, adding that he trusted 
we would accompany them. 

I answered that we wished for no more of the sea at pres- 
ent, and that we intended to pursue our journey to the 
town of Potrerillo, where we could refit before undertak- 
ing an expedition to the ruined cities of Yucatan. The 
boatswain said it was well, though he was sorry that they 
could not escort us so far, as it was their duty to report the 
loss of the ship to its owner, who lived at Campeche. 

When we heard this the sefior unbuckled the belt of 
money, which he wore about his waist, and, pouring out 
half a handful of gold pieces, he begged the boatswain to 
accept of them for division between himself and his com- 
panions. All this while Don Jose was sitting close to us, 
watching everything that passed, and I saw his eyes bright- 
en at the sight of the belt of gold. 

" You are fortunate to have saved so much," he said, 
speaking for the first time. "All that I had has gone 
down with the ship, yes, three thousand dollars or more." 

" You should have followed our example," answered the 
sefior ; "we divided our cash between the three of us and 
secured it upon our persons, though perhaps you were wise 
after all, since such a weight of gold might have been awk- 
ward if, like you, we had been called upon to swim. By 
the way, sen or, what are your plans ? " 

" If you will allow me," answered the Mexican, "I will 
walk with you towards Potrerillo, for my home lies on that 
road. Would you be offended, sefior, if, on behalf of my 
father, I ventured to offer his hospitality to you and your 
companions ? " 

"To speak plainly, Don Jose," said the senor, "our 
past experience has not been such as to cause us to desire 
to have anything more to do with you. May I remind you, 
putting aside other matters, that last night you attempted 
to stab me ? " 

" Sefior," answered the man with every sign of contrition. 



" THE HACIENDA" 97 

" if I did this it was because terror and madness possessed 
me, and most humbly do I beg your pardon for the deed, 
and for any angry and foolish words that I may have 
spoken before it. Sefior, you saved my life, and my heart is 
filled with gratitude towards you, who have thus repaid 
evil with good. I know that you have heard an ill report 
of my father, and, to speak truth, at times when the liquor 
is in him, he is a bad and violent old man, yet he has this 
virtue, that he loves me, his son, and all those who are kind 
to me. Therefore, in his name and my own, I pray that 
you will forget the past and accept of our hospitality for 
some few days, or at least until you have recovered from 
your fatigue and we can furnish you with arms and horses 
to help you forward on your journey." 

" Certainly we desire to buy mules and guns," answered 
the sefior, " and if you think that your father will be able 
to supply these, we will avail ourselves of your kindness 
and pass a night or two at his hacienda." 

" Seflor, the place is yoms and all that it con tains, "Don 
Jose answered with much courtesy ; but as he spoke I saw 
his eye gleam with an evil fire. 

"Doubtless," I interrupted, "for I understand that 
Don Pedro Moreno is famed for his hospitality. Still, in 
accepting it, I venture to ask for a promise of safe-con- 
duct, more especially as, save for our pistols and knives, we 
are unarmed." 

" Do you wish to insult me, seilor ? " Don Jose asked 
angrily. 

<: Not in the least, sefior, but I find it a little strange 
that you, who two nights ago refused to sit at meat with ' a 
dog of an Indian/ should now be anxious to receive that 
same dog into your home." 

" Have I not said that I am sorry for what is past ? " he 
answered, " and can a man do more ? Gentlemen, if any 
evil is attempted towards you in my father's house, I will 
answer for it with my life." 



98 HEART OF THE WORLD 

<e That is quite sufficient/' broke in the sefior, " espe- 
cially as in such an event we should most certainly hold you 
to your bond. And now tell me how far is the hacienda 
from this spot ? " 

"If we start at once we should reach it at sundown," he 
answered, " that is on foot, though it is but three hours' 
ride from the house to the mouth of the river." 

" Then let us go," he said, and ten minutes later we 
were on the road. 

Before we went, however, we bade a warm farewell to 
the sailors, and also to the alcalde of the village, all of 
whom were somewhat disturbed on learning that we pro- 
posed to sleep at Santa Cruz. 

" The place has an evil name," said the alcalde, "and it 
is a home of thieves and smugglers only last week a cargo 
that never paid duty went up the river. They say that 
Don Pedro was fathered by the devil in person ; may the 
Saints protect you from him, lord ! " 

"We have business that takes us to this house, friend," 
I answered ; ( ' but doubtless it will be easy for you to keep 
yourself informed of what chances in that neighbourhood, 
and if we should not appear again within a few days, per- 
haps it may please you to advise the authorities at Cam- 
peche that we are missing." 

" The authorities are afraid of Don Pedro," answered 
the alcalde, shaking his head, " also he bribes them so 
heavily that they grow blind when they look his way. 
Still I will do the best I can, be sure of that, and as an 
Inglese is with you, it is possible that I may be able to get 
help if necessary." 

Our walk that day was long and hot, though we had 
nothing to carry except the clothes on our backs, all our 
possessions having been lost in the ship. At noon we 
halted, and, the heat being great, ate some food that we had 
brought with us, and slept two hours in the shade, which 



" THE HACIENDA" 99 

sleep was most grateful, for we were weary. Then we rose 
and tramped on, till at length we came within sight of 
this hacienda, where, though I little guessed it at the time, 
I was fated to spend so many years of my life. 

Walking through a large milpa, or corn field, that in 
front of the building which is now planted with coffee- 
bushes, we reached the gateway and entered the courtyard, 
where we were met by many fierce dogs which rushed upon 
us from all sides. Don Jose beat back the dogs, that knew 
him, and, leaving us under the charge of some half-breeds, 
he entered the house. 

After a while he returned again and led us through the 
passages into the dining-hall, which, as you know, is the 
largest room in the hacienda, and in former days served as 
the refectory of the monks. Several lamps were hung 
upon its walls, for already it grew dark, and by their light 
we saw five or six people gathered round a long table wait- 
ing for supper, which was being laid by Indian girls. Of 
these men it is sufficient to say that they were of mixed 
nationality and villainous appearance. Turning from them 
we looked towards the far end of the chamber, where a 
hammock was slung from the beams in the roof, in which 
lay a man whom a handsome girl, also an Indian, was em- 
ployed in rocking to and fro. 

' ' Come and be introduced to my father, who expects 
you," said Don Jose, leading the way towards the ham- 
mock. "Father, here is that brave Englishman who 
saved my life last night, and with him the Indian gentle- 
man, who did not wish to save my life. As I told you, I 
have offered them hospitality on your behalf, feeling sure 
that they would be welcome here." 

At the sound of his son's voice Don Pedro awoke, or 
pretended to awake, from his doze, and bade the girl cease 
swinging the hammock. Then he sat up and looked at us. 
He was a short stout man of about sixty years of age, so 
short indeed that, although the hammock was slung low, 



100 HEART OF THE WORLD 

h is legs did not touch the floor. Notwithstanding this lack of 
stature, Don Pedro's appearance was striking, while his long, 
carefully brushed white hair gave him a venerable aspect. 

Other beauties he had none, however, for his cheeks were 
flabby and wrinkled, his mouth was cruel and sensuous ; and 
his dull eyes, which were small, half opened, and protected 
from the glare of the lamps by spectacles of tinted glass, 
can best be described as horrible, like those of a snake. 
Looking at him we could well believe that his reputation 
was not exaggerated, for he bore the stamp of evil on his 
face. Still he bowed with much courtesy and addressed 
the sefior in Spanish. 

" So you are the Englishman who saved my son here from 
the sinking ship," he said in a slow, powerful voice, peer- 
ing at us with his fish-like eyes from beneath the coloured 
glasses. " He tells me that you rowed back to the side of 
the foundering vessel merely in order to fetch him. Well, 
it was a brave deed and one that I should not have dared 
myself , for I have always found it hard enough to keep 
my own breath in me without attempting to preserve that 
of other people. But as I have seen several times, you 
Englishmen are peculiar in these matters, foolhardy indeed. 
Sefior, I am grateful to you, and this house and all within 
it is at your disposal and that of your companions," and he 
glanced with genuine affection at the coarse beetle-browed 
man beside him, who was gnawing one end of his moustache 
and staring at us out of the corners of his eyes. 

" Tell me," he added, " to what do I owe the honour of 
your presence ? " 

"To an accident, Don Pedro," the sefior answered. 
" As it chances, the ruins of this ancient land interest me 
much, and I was travelling to Palenque with my Indian 
friend, Don Ignatio, when we were so unfortunate as to be 
wrecked near your hospitable house. In our dilemma we 
accepted the invitation of your son to visit you, in the hope 
that you may be able to sell us some guns and mules." 



" THE HACIENDA" 101 

" Ruins, Seiior Strickland ! Decidedly yon Englishmen 
are strange. What pleasure can you find in hunting about 
among old walls, built by men long dead, unless indeed you 
seek for treasure there. For my part I hate the name of 
ruins, for I have always suffered from a presentiment that I 
should meet my end among them, and that is bad to think 
of. Bah ! " and he spat upon the floor " there, it comes 
upon me again, suddenly as a fit of the ague." 

"Well," he went on, "you are lucky to have saved your 
lives and your money, and to-morrow we will see about the 
things that you desire to buy. Meanwhile, you are travel- 
stained and doubtless will wish to cleanse yourselves before 
you eat. Jose, conduct the sefior and his Indian friend, 
since he is so fond of his company, to their room, the ab- 
bot's chamber. Supper will be served shortly, till then, 
adios. Girl, go with them," he added, addressing the 
woman who had been engaged in swinging the hammock, 
"water may be wanted and other things." 

The woman bowed and went away, and at the door we 
found her standing, lamp in hand, to light us down the 
passage. 

Now, Sefior Jones, you, for whom I write my history, 
have so often slept in the abbot's chamber in this house 
that it is needless for me to stop to describe it. Except for 
the furniture, the room is just as it was in those days. 
Then it was empty save for a few chairs, a rough washing- 
stand, and two truckle bedsteads of American make, which 
were placed at a little distance from each other on either 
side of the picture of the abbot. 

" I fear that you will think this a poor place, after the 
luxury of Mexico, gentlemen," said Don Jose, " but it is 
our guest-chamber, the best that we have." 

"Thank you," answered the sefior, "it will do very 
well, though perhaps your visitors suffer sometimes from 
nightmare," and he glanced at the awful and life-sized 
picture on the south wall of an Indian being burnt at an 



102 HEART OF THE WORLD 

auto-da-fe, while devils hanging above his head dragged 
the soul from his tortured and expiring body. 

" Pretty, are they not ? " said Don Jose ; ' ' I would have 
them whitewashed over, but my father likes them. Yon 
see all the victims are Indians, there isn't a white man 
among them, and the old man never could bear Indians. 
Well, when you are ready, will you come to supper ? You 
will not lose the way, for you can follow the smell of the 
food," and he left the room. 

" One moment," I said addressing the girl, who was 
about to accompany him, " perhaps you will see that our 
servant," and I pointed to Molas, " has some meat brought 
to him here, since your masters will not wish him to sit at 
table." 

" Si," answered the girl, whose name was Luisa, search- 
ing my face with her eyes. 

By this time Don Jose was through the door, which 
the draught pushed to behind him. I watched it close, 
then a thought struck me, for I remembered that among 
our Order there are women, associates of the outer circle, 
and I whispered some words into Luisa's ear and made a 
sign with my hand. She started and gave the ancient 
answer, which is taught even to children, whereto I 
replied with another sign, that of the Presence of the 
Heart. " Where?" she asked glancing at each of us in 
turn. 

"Here," I answered, and, drawing out the symbol, I 
held it before her eyes. 

She saw and made obeisance, and at that moment we 
heard Don Jose calling her from the further side of the 
door. 

" I come," she cried in answer, then added in a whis- 
per : "Lord, you are in danger in this house. I cannot 
tell you now, but if possible I will return. The wine is 
safe, but drink no coffee, and do not sleep when you lie 
down. Search the floor and you will understand the rea- 



' ' THE HA CIENDA " 103 

son. I. come, seflor ! I come ! " and she fled from the 
room. 

So soon as the girl was gone, the Seflor James went to 
the door and locked it, then he returned and said : 

" What does all this mean, Ignatio ? " 

I did not answer, but, pushing aside one of the beds, I 
searched the floor beneath it. It was discoloured in several 
places. Next I pulled the blankets off the beds and exam- 
ined the webbing that formed the mattresses, to discover 
that this also was stained, though slightly, for it had been 
washed. Then I said : 

" Men have died in these beds, seflor, and yonder stains 
were made by their blood. It would seem that the guests 
of Don Pedro sleep well ; first they are drugged, then they 
are murdered ; and it is for this purpose that we have been 
lured to the house. Well, we expected nothing else." 

" That is a pleasing prospect/' he answered, " we are 

this man's guests, surely therefore he will not " and he 

drew his hand across his throat. 

" Certainly he will, seftor, and it is to this end that we 
have been brought here by Don Jose. If others have been 
murdered, it is not likely that we shall escape, since Don 
Pedro will be sure that an Inglese would not travel without 
a large sum of money. Moreover, we have a quarrel with 
the son, and know too much about the father." 

" Again I say that the prospect is a pleasant one," 
answered the seflor. "On the whole it would have been 
better to be drowned than to live on to be butchered by 
those villains in this awful place. What an end ! " 

" Do not despair," I answered. ' ' We are warned in time 
and therefore, I think, shall escape by the help of that 
girl and the other Indians in the place, since in an hour 
every one of them will have learned who we are, and be 
prepared to venture their lives to save us. Also we came 
for a purpose, knowing our risk. Now let us make ready 
and go among these men with a bold face ; for of this you 



104 HEART OF THE WORLD 

may be sure, that nothing will be attempted till late at 
night when they think us sleeping. Have you understood, 
Molas ? " 

" Yes," answered the Indian. 

" Then watch here, or in the outer room, till we return, 
and should the girl come, learn all you can from her as to 
the whereabouts of the old doctor and his daughter, and 
other matters, for when she knows you to be of the Order 
she will speak. Have you been recognised by anyone ? " 

" I think not, senor. When we entered it was too dark 
for them to see." 

" Good. Then keep out of their way if possible, do the 
best you can with the girl, and take note of all that passes. 
Farewell." 

When we reached the dining-hall, nine of the company 
were already seated at the table impatient for their food, 
but Don Pedro was still sitting in his hammock engaged in 
earnest conversation with his son Jose. Of those at the 
table but one was a white man, a lanky, withered-looking 
person with a broken nose, whose general appearance filled 
us with disgust. The rest were half-breeds, the refuse of 
revolutions, villains who had escaped the hand of justice 
and who lived by robbery and murder. 

Looking at these outcasts it became clear to us that, if 
once we fell into their power, we could expect little mercy 
at their hands, for they would think no more of butchering 
us in cold blood than does a sportsman of shooting a deer. 

When Don Pedro perceived us, he slid from his hammock 
to the ground, and, taking the senor by the hand, he said : 

" Let me introduce you to my overseer, the Sefior 
Smith, from Texas. He is an American and will be glad 
to meet one who can speak English, for, notwithstanding 
much practice, his Spanish is none of the best." 

The senor bowed, and the American desperado spoke to 
him in English, wearing a grin on his face like that of a 
wicked dog as he did so, though I do not know what he 



" THE HACIENDA" 105 

said. Then Don Pedro conducted his guest to a place of 
honour at the head of the table, that beside his own seat, 
while I was led to another table at a little distance, where 
my meat was served to me alone, since, as an Indian of pure 
blood, I was not thought fit for the company of these cross- 
bred curs. Don Jose having taken his place at the further 
end of the board with the Americano, the meal began, and 
an excellent one it was. 

Now, in the conversation that ensued I took no part, ex- 
cept when members of the gang called to me to drink wine 
with them, for they desired to make me drunk ; but while 
I pretended to be occupied with my meat, I thought much 
and watched more. The talk that passed I set down as I 
overheard it and as it was reported to me by the senor. 

" Try some more of this Burgundy," said Don Pedro 
when the dishes had been removed, filling his tumbler for 
the seventh or eighth time, " it is the right stuff, straight 
from France, though it never paid duty," and he winked 
his leaden eye. 

" Your health, senor, and may you live to do many such 
brave deeds as that of yesterday, when you saved my son 
from the sea. By the way, do you know that on board the 
Santa Maria they said that you had the evil eye and 
brought her to wreck ; yes, and your long-faced compan- 
ion, the Indian, also ? " 

" Indeed, I never heard of it before," answered the senor 
with a laugh ; " but if so, our evil eyes shall not trouble you 
for long, as we propose to continue our journey to-morrow." 

"Nonsense, friend, nonsense, you don't suppose that I 
believe in that sort of rubbish, do you ? We say many 
things that we do not believe just for a joke ; thus," and 
he raised his voice so that I could hear him at my table, 
"your companion there is he not named Ignatio ? told 
a story to my disadvantage on board the ship, which I am 
sure that he did not believe," and suddenly he stared at 
me and added insolently : " Is it not so, Indian ?" 



106 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" If you seek my opinion, Don Pedro," I answered, lean- 
ing forward and speaking very clearly, " I say that it is 
unprofitable to repeat words that are said, or to remember 
deeds that are done with. If I spoke certain words, or if 
in the past you did certain deeds, here beneath your hos- 
pitable roof is not the place to recall them." 

" Quite so, Indian, quite so, you talk like an oracle, as 
Montezuma used to talk to Cortes till the Conqueror found 
a way to teach him plain speaking a great man, Cortes, 
he understood how to deal with Indians. " Then he spat 
upon the floor and, having looked down the table, spoke to 
the senor in a somewhat anxious voice. 

" Tell me," he said, "for your sight is better than mine, 
how many are there present here to-night ? ". 

" Counting my friend, thirteen," he answered. 

" I thought so," said our host, with an oath, " and it is 
too late to mend matters now. Well, may the Saints, 
and they should be thick about a monastery, avert the 
omen. I see you think me a fool." 

" Not at all," he replied ; " I am rather superstitious 
myself and dislike sitting down thirteen to table." 

" So do I, so do I, Senor Strickland. Listen ; last time 
we dined thirteen in this room, there were two travellers 
here, Americanos, friends of Don Smith, who were trying to 
open up a trade in these parts. They drank more than was 
good for them, and the end of it was that in the night they 
quarrelled and killed each other, yonder in the abbot's 
chamber, where you are sleeping, poor men, poor men ! 
There was trouble about the matter at the time, but Don 
Smith explained to his countrymen and it came to 
nothing." 

" Indeed," answered the sefior ; " it was strange that 
two drunken men should kill each other." 

" So 1 say, senor. In truth for a while I thought that 
Indians must have got into their rooms and murdered 
them, but it was proved beyond a doubt that this was not 



" THE HACIENDA" IO7 

so. Ah ! they are a wicked people, the Indians ; I have 
seen much of them and I should know. Now the Govern- 
ment wishes to treat them too well. Our fathers knew 
better how to deal with them, but luckily the arm of the 
Government scarcely reaches here, and no whining padres 
or officials come prying about my house, though once we 
had some soldiers," and he cursed at the recollection and 
drank another glass of Burgundy. 

" I tell you that they are a wicked people," he went on, 
" the demonios their fathers worshipped still possess them, 
also they are secret and dangerous ; there are Indians now 
who know where vast treasures are buried, but they will 
tell nothing. 

" Yes," and suddenly growing excited under the influ- 
ence of the strong drink, he leaned over and whispered 
into his guest's ear, " I have one such in the house at this 
moment, an old Lacandone, that is, an unbaptised Indian, 
not that I think him any the worse for that, and with him 
his daughter, a woman more beautiful than the night 
perhaps if I go on liking you, Englishman, I will show her 
to you to-morrow, only then I should have to keep you, 
for you would never go away. Beautiful ! yes, she is 
beautiful, though a devil at heart. I have not dared to 
let these little ones see her," and he winked and nodded 
towards the villains at the table, " but Jose is to pay her 
and her papa a visit to-night, and he won't mind her tem- 
pers, though they frighten me. 

" Well, would you believe it ? this girl and her old father 
have the secret of enough treasure to make every man of 
us here rich as the Queen of England. How do I know 
that ? I know it because I heard it from their own lips, 
but fill your glass and take a cigar and I will tell you the 
story." 



108 HEART OF THE WORLD 

CHAPTER VIII. 

THE SUPPER AND AFTER 

" LISTEN", seflor ; if you are interested in old ruins and 
the Indians, you must have heard tales of races living away 
in the forest country, where no white man has set his foot, 
and of their wonderful cities that are said to be full of 
gold. Many say that these tales are lies, that no such peo- 
ple and no such cities exist, and they say this because no- 
body has found them ; but I, for my part, have always be- 
lieved there was something in the story, seeing that other- 
wise it would not have lasted so long. 

" Well, a few months back, I heard that a strange old 
Indian doctor, who was said to have travelled from the far 
interior, was dwelling somewhere in the forest together 
with a woman, but where he dwelt exactly I could not 
learn, nor, indeed, did I trouble myself to do so. About 
eight weeks ago, however, it happened that an Indian, 
being asked for the toll, which I charge all passers-by to 
recoup me for my expense in making roads, seflor paid it 
with a little lump of pure gold having a heart stamped on 
either side of the metal. 

" Now, you may not know, though I do, that the heart 
is a sacred symbol among these Indians, and has been for 
many generations, for it is to be seen cut upon the walls of 
their ruins, though what it means only Satan, their master, 
can tell. 

" Therefore, when I saw the lump of gold with the 
token on it, I asked the Indian whence he had it, and he 
told me readily enough that it came from this old doctor, 
who gave it to him in payment for some food. He told me 
also where I might find him, and went upon his way, but, 
his heart being full of deceit, he lied as to the place, so 



SUPPER AND AFTER 109 

that I searched in vain. Well, to shorten a long story, 
although to this hour I do not know where the Indian 
was hiding, I set a trap for him and caught him, ay, and 
his daughter too. 

" It was a simple one, a man in my pay knew another 
man who visited the doctor in the forest to get medicine 
from him, but who would not reveal his hiding-place. 
Still, my servant drew it out of him thus : he sent piteous 
messages through his friend, begging the doctor to come 
and save the life of his dying child, which lay in a house 
near here, and could not be moved. 

" The end of it was that the doctor came, and his daugh- 
ter with him. Yes, they walked at night straight to the 
snare, into this very house, seflor, and only discovered 
their mistake when they found the doors locked upon them, 
and that the dying child was none other than your humble 
servant, Don Pedro Moreno. 

" I can tell you, senor, that I laughed till I nearly cried 
at the sight of their faces, when they found out the trick, 
though there was nothing to laugh at in them, for the man 
looked like an old king, and the girl like a queen, quite 
different from the Indians in these parts ; moreover, they 
wore two such serapes as I had never seen, made of green 
feathers fastened to a foundation of linen. 

" When the old man found himself caged, he asked what 
it meant and where he was, speaking in a dialect so like 
the Maya tongue that I could understand him quite well. 
I told him that he was to be my guest for a while, and 
with the help of two men who were with me I proceeded 
to secure him and his daughter in a safe place, whereat he 
flew into a fearful rage, and cursed all of us most dread- 
fully, and more especially that man who had betrayed him. 
So awful were his curses and the vengeance that he con- 
jured upon us from heaven, that my hair stood straight 
upon my head, and as for the man who lured him here 
under pretence of visiting his child, it came about that 



1 10 HEART OF THE WORLD 

within two days he died of a sudden sickness bred of his 
own fears. When the second man heard of his compan- 
ion's death, he in turn fled from the place, dreading lest a 
like fate should overtake him, and has been no more heard 
of. 

" Thus it comes about, seflor, that I alone know where 
these birds are caged, though I hope to introduce my son 
to them to-night, for I dare not trust the others, and wish 
to keep them in the family, nor will I let any Indians near 
them. 

" Well, when they had calmed down a little, I spoke to 
my prisoners through a grating, telling them that I wished 
to know whence they had obtained those lumps of gold 
stamped with a heart, to which the old man answered that 
he had no knowledge of any such gold. Now, I was sure 
that he lied, and took refuge in another trick. The cell 
where they were shut up is that in which the old monks 
imprisoned such as were suspected of heresy, and others, 
and close to it is a secret place there are many such in 
this house, seflor where a spy may be hid, and both see 
and hear all that passes in the cell. 

"In this place I ensconced myself, and lay there for 
hours, with the rats running over me, so anxious was I to 
get at the truth. In the end I was not disappointed, for 
they began to talk. A great deal of their conversation I 
could make nothing of, but at length the girl said, after 
examining an old gilt crucifix that hung upon the wall : 

" ' Look, father, here also they have gold/ 

" ' It is gilt, not gold/ he answered, ' I know the art of 
it, though with us it is not practised, except to keep from 
corruption the spears and arrowheads that fowlers use upon 
the lake/ Then he added : 

" ' I wonder what that leaden-eyed, greedy-faced wliite 
thief would say if he knew that in a single temple we could 
show him enough of the metal he covets to fill this place 
five times over from floor to ceiling/ 



THE SUPPER AND AFTER III 

" ' Hush ! ' she said, ' ears may be listening even in these 
walls ; let us risk nothing, seeing that by seeming to be ig- 
norant alone we can hope to escape/* 

"Well," asked the senor eagerly, "and what did Zibal- 
bay answer ? I think that you said the old man's name 
was Zibalbay," he added, trying to recover the slip. 

" Zibalbay ! No, I never mentioned that name/' Don 
Pedro replied suspiciously, and with a sudden change of 
manner. " He answered nothing at all. Next morning, 
when I came to question them, the birds had flown. It is 
a pity, for otherwise I might have asked the old man if 
his name is Zibalbay. I suppose that the Indians had let 
them out, but I could not discover." 

" Why, Don Pedro, you said just now that they were 
still in the house." 

' ' Did I ? Then I made a mistake, as you did about the 
name ; this wine is strong, it must have gone to my head ; 
sometimes it does a weakness, and a bad one. It is an 
odd tale, but there it ended so far as I am concerned. 
Come, senor, take a cup of coffee, it is good." 

" Thank you, no," answered the senor, " I never drink 
coffee at night, it keeps me awake." 

" Still, I beg you to try ours, friend, we grow it our- 
selves and are proud of its flavour." 

" It is poison to me, I dare not," he said. " But pray 
tell me, do the gentlemen whom I have the honour to see 
at table cultivate your plantations ? " 

" Yes, yes, they cultivate the coffee and the cocoa, and 
other things also when they have a mind. I daresay you 
think them a rough-looking lot, but they are kind-hearted, 
ah ! so kind-hearted ; feeble as I am they treat me like a 
father. Bah ! seflor, what is the good of hiding the truth 
from one of your discernment ? We do business of all 
sorts here, but the staple of it is smuggling rather than 
agriculture. 

" The trade is not what it was, those sharks of customs 



112 HEART OF THE WORLD 

officers down on the coast there want so much to hold their 
tongues, but still there are a few pickings. In the old 
times, when they did not ask questions, it was otherwise, 
for then men of pluck were ready for anything from re- 
volution down to the stringing up of a coach-load of fat 
merchants, but now is the day of small profits, and we 
must be thankful for whatever trifles Providence sends 
us." 

" Such as the two Americans who got drunk and killed 
each other," suggested the seflor, whose tongue was never 
of the most cautious. 

Instantly Don Pedro's face changed, the sham geniality 
born of drink went out of it, and was replaced by a hard 
and cunning look. 

" I am tired, seilor," he said, " as you must be also, 
and, if you will excuse me, I will light another cigar and 
take a nap in my hammock. Perhaps you will amuse 
yourself with the others, sefior, till you wish to go to 
rest." Then rising, he bowed and walked somewhat un- 
steadily to the far end of the room. 

When Don Pedro had retired to his hammock, whither 
the Indian girl, Luisa, was summoned to swing him to 
sleep, I saw his son Jose and the Texan outcast, Smith, 
both of whom, like the rest of the company, were more or 
less drunk, come to the seiior and ask him to join in a 
game of cards. Guessing that their object was to make 
him show what cash he had about him, he also affected to 
be in liquor, and replied noisily that he had lost most of 
his money in the shipwreck, and was, moreover, too full of 
wine to play. 

"Then you must have lost it on the road, friend," said 
Don Jose, "for you forget that you made those sailors a 
present from a belt of gold which you wore about your 
middle. However, no gentleman shall be forced to gamble 
in this house, so come and talk while the others have their 
little game." 



THE SUPPER AND AFTER 113 

" Yes, that will be better," answered the seflor, and he 
staggered to an empty chair, placed not far from the table 
at which I remained, and was served with spirits and 
cigars. Here he sat watching the play, which was high, 
although the counters looked innocent enough, they were 
cocoa beans, and listened to the conversation of the gam- 
blers, in which he joined from time to time. 

The talk was not good to hear, for as these wretches 
grew more drunken, they began to boast of their past ex- 
ploits in various parts of the country. One man told how- 
he had kidnapped and tortured an Indian who had offended 
him ; another, how he had murdered a woman of whom he 
was jealous ; and the third, of the successful robbing of a 
coach-load of travellers, and their subsequent butchery by 
the driving of the coach over the edge of a precipice. All 
these stories, however, were as milk to brandy compared to 
those that Don Smith, the Americano, growing confiden- 
tial in his cups, poured forth one after the other, till the 
seflor, unable to bear them any longer, affected to sink 
into a tipsy doze. 

All this while I sat at the little table where my dinner 
had been served, saying nothing, for none spoke to me, 
but within hearing of everything that passed. There I sat 
quiet, my arms folded on my breast, listening attentively 
to the tales of outrage, wrong, and murder practised by 
these wicked ones upon my countrymen. 

To them I was only a member of a despised and hated 
race, admitted to their company on sufferance in order that 
I might be robbed and murdered in due course, but in my 
heart I looked on them with loathing and contempt, and 
felt far above them as the stars, while I watched and 
wondered how long the great God would suffer his world 
to be outraged by their presence. 

Some such thoughts seemed to strike others of that com- 
pany, for presently Don Smith called out, 



114 HEART OF THE WORLD 

"Look at that Indian rascal, friend, he is proud as a 
turkey-cock in springtime : why, he reminds me of the 
figure of the king in that ruin where we laid up last year 
waiting for the sefiora and her party. You remember the 
sefiora, don't you, Jose ? I can hear her squeaks now," 
and he laughed brutally, and added, " Come, king, have 
a drink." 

" Gracias, senor," I answered, " I have drunk." 

" Then smoke a cigar, king." 

" Gracias, senor, I do not smoke to-night." 

" My lord cacique, of all the Indians won't drink and 
won't smoke," said Don Smith, " so we will offer him in- 
cense," and, taking a plate, he filled it with dry tobacco 
and cigarette-paper, to which he set fire. Then he placed 
the plate on the table before me, so that the fumes of the 
tobacco rose into the air about my head. 

" There, now he looks like a real god," said the Ameri- 
cano, clapping his hands ; " I say, Jose, let us make a 
sacrifice to him. There is the girl who ran away last week, 
and whom we caught with the dogs " 

" No, no, comrade," broke in Jose, "none of your jokes 
to-night, you forget that we have a visitor. Not but what 
I should like to sacrifice this old demonio of an Indian to 
himself," he added, in an outburst of drunken fury. 
" Curse him ! he insulted me and my father and mother, 
yonder on board the ship." 

"And are you going to put tip with that from this 
wooden Indian god ? Why, if I were in your place, by now 
I would have filled him as full of holes as a coffee-roaster, 
just to let the lies out." 

"That's what I want to do," said Jose, gnashing his 
teeth, " he has insulted me and threatened me, and ought 
to pay for it, the black thief," and, drawing a large knife, 
he flourished it in my face. 

I did not shrink from it ; I did not so much as suffer my 
eyelids to tremble, though the steel flashed within an inch 



THE SUPPER AND AFTER 1 15 

of them, for I knew that if once I showed fear he would 
strike. Therefore I said calmly : 

" You are pleased to jest, sefior, and your jests are some- 
what rude, but I pass them by, for I know that you cannot 
harm me because I am your guest, and those who kill a 
guest are not gentlemen, but murderers, which the high- 
born Don Jose Moreno could never be." 

" Stick the pig, Jose/' said Smith, " he is insulting you 
again. It will save you trouble after wards. " 

Then, as Don Jose again advanced upon me with the 
knife, of a sudden the sefior sprang up from his chair and 
stood between us. 

" Come, friend/' he said, ' ' a joke is a joke, but you are 
carrying this too far, according to your custom," and, seiz- 
ing the man by the shoulders, he put out all his great 
strength, and swung him back with such force that, strik- 
ing against the long table with his thighs, he rolled on to 
and over it, falling heavily to the ground upon the farther 
side, whence he rose cursing with rage. 

By now, Don Pedro, who had wakened or affected to 
waken from his sleep, thought that the time had come to 
interfere. 

" Peace, little ones, peace ! " he cried sleepily from his 
hammock. " Kemember that the men are guests, and cease 
brawling. Let them go to bed, it is time for them to go to 
bed, and they need rest ; by to-morrow your differences 
will be healed up for ever." 

" I take the hint," said the seflor, with forced gaiety. 
" Come, Ignatio, let us sleep off our host's good wine. Gen- 
tlemen, sweet dreams to you," and he walked across the 
hall, followed by myself. 

At the door I turned my head and looked back. Every 
man in the room was watching us intently, and it seemed 
to me that the drunkenness had passed from their faces, 
scared away by a sense of some great wickedness about to 
be worked. Don Smith was whispering into the ear of 



Il6 HEART OF THE WORLD 

Jose, who still held the knife in his hand, but the rest were 
staring at us as people stare at men passing to the scaffold. 

Even Don Pedro, wide awake now, sat up in his ham- 
mock and peered with his horny eyes, while the Indian 
girl, Luisa, her hand upon the cord, watched our depart- 
ure with some such face as mourners watch the out-bear- 
ing of a corpse. All this I noted in a moment as I crossed 
the threshold and went forward down the passage, and as I 
went I shivered, for the scene was uncanny and fateful. 

Presently we were in the abbot's chamber, our sleeping- 
place, and had locked the door behind us. Near the wash- 
stand, on which burned a single candle set in the neck of a 
bottle, sat Molas, his face buried in his hands. 

"Have they brought you no supper, that you look so 
sad ? " asked the senor. 

"The woman, Luisa, gave me to eat," he whispered. 
" Listen, lord, and you, Senor Strickland, our fears are 
well founded ; there is a plot to murder us to-night, of this 
the woman is sure, for she heard some words pass between 
Don Pedro and a white man called Smith ; also she saw 
one of the half-breeds fetch spades from the garden and 
place them in readiness, which spades are to be used in 
the hollowing of our graves beneath this floor." 

Now when We heard this our hearts sank, for it was ter- 
rible to think that we were doomed within a few hours to 
lie beneath the ground whereon our living feet were rest- 
ing. Yet, if these assassins were determined upon our 
slaughter, our fate seemed certain, seeing that we had 
only knives wherewith to defend ourselves, for, though we 
had saved the pistols and some powder in a flask, the damp 
had reached the latter during the shipwreck, so that it 
could not be relied upon. 

"I am afraid that we have been too venturesome in 
coming here," I said, " and that unless we can escape at 
once we must be prepared to pay the price of our folly 
with our lives." 



THE SUPPER AND AFTER Ii; 

" Do not be downcast, lord," answered Molas, " for you 
have not heard all the tale. The woman has shown me a 
means whereby you can save yourselves from death, at any 
rate for to-night. Come here," and, leading us across the 
room, he knelt upon the floor at a spot almost opposite the 
picture of the abbot, and pressed on a panel in the low 
wainscoting of cedar wood with which the wall was clothed 
to a height of about three feet. 

The panel slid aside, leaving a space barely large enough 
for a man to pass. Through this opening we crept one by 
one, and descended four narrow steps, to find ourselves in 
a chamber hollowed out of the foundations of the wall, so 
small that there was only just room for the three of us to 
stand in it, our heads being some inches above the level of 
the floor. 

And here I may tell you, Seiior Jones, that, though I 
have never shown it to you, this place still exists, as you 
may discover by searching the wainscoting. For many 
years I have used it for the safe keeping of papers and 
valuables. There, by the way, you will find that emerald 
which I showed you on the first night of our meeting. 
What the purpose of this chamber was in the time of the 
abbots I do not know, and perhaps it is as well not to in- 
quire, though they also may have used it to store their 
wealth. 

" How can we save ourselves by crouching here like rats 
in a drain ? " I asked of Molas. " Doubtless the secret of 
the hiding-place is known to those who live in the house, 
and they will drag us out and butcher us." 

" The woman Luisa says that it is known to none except 
herself, lord, for she declares that not two months ago she 
discovered it for the first time by the accident of the broom 
with which she was sweeping the floor striking against the 
springs of the panel. Now let us come out for a while, 
for it is not yet eleven o'clock, and she says that there 
will be no danger till after midnight." 



118 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" Has she any plan for our escape ?" 1 asked. 

" She has a plan, though she is doubtful of its success. 
When the murderers have been, and found us gone, they 
will think either that we are wizards or that we have made 
our way out of the house, and will search no more till 
dawn. Meanwhile, if she can, Luisa will return, and, en- 
tering the chamber by the secret entrance, will lead us to 
the chapel, whence she thinks that we may fly into the 
forest. " 

" Where is this secret entrance, Molas ? " 

" I do not know, lord ; she had no time to tell me, but 
the murderers will come by it. She did tell me, however, 
that she believes that a man and a woman are imprisoned 
near the chapel, though she knows nothing of them and 
never visits the place, because the Indians deem it to be 
haunted. Doubtless these two are Zibalbay and his 
daughter, so that if you live to come so far, you may find 
them there and speak with them." 

" Why do you say f if you live,' Molas ?" 

" Because I think, lord, that then I shall be already 
dead ; at least, death waits on me." 

" What do you mean ? " asked the seflor. 

" I will tell you. After the woman Luisa had gone I 
ate the food she brought me and drank some wine. Then 
I think that I fell asleep, for when I awoke the candle had 
burned out and I was in darkness. Hastily I turned to 
search for another candle that I had placed by the bottle, 
and was about to make fire when something drew my eyes, 
causing me to look up. 

" This was what I saw : at the far end of the chamber, 
enclosed in a film of such pale light as is given by the glow- 
fly, stood the figure of a man, and that man myself, dressed 
as I am now. There I stood surrounded by faint fire ; and 
though the face was the face of a dead man, yet the hand 
was not dead, for it beckoned towards me through the 
darkness. 



THE SUPPER AND AFTER 1 19 

" Now I saw, and the cold sweat of fear broke out upon 
me, so that I could scarcely light the candle which I held. 
At length, however, it burned brightly, and, holding it over 
my head, I walked towards the spot where I had seen the 
shadow, only to find that it was gone." 

" Or in other words, that you had slept off your indiges- 
tion/' said the seflor. " I congratulate you on getting rid 
of it so soon." 

" It is easy to mock," answered Molas, " but that which 
I have seen, I have seen, and I know that it portends my 
death. Well, so be it ; I am not yet old, but I have lived 
long enough and now it is time to go. May Heaven have 
mercy on my sins, and thus let it be." 

After this the seflor and I strove to reason him out of his 
folly, but in vain, nor, in fact, was it altogether a folly, see- 
ing that Molas was doomed to die upon the morrow ; though 
whether the vision that he saw came to warn him of his 
fate, or was but a dream, it is not for me to say. 

Presently we ceased talking of ghosts and omens, for we 
must look to our own bodies and the necessities of the hour. 
Some minutes before midnight we extinguished the light, 
and, creeping one by one through the hole in the panelling, 
we closed it behind us and took our stand in the little 
dungeon. Here the darkness was awful, and as the 
warmth of the wine that we had drunk passed from our 
veins, fears gathered thick upon us and oppressed our 
souls. Those hours on the sinking ship had been evil, but 
what were they compared to this ? 

Deep as was the silence, yet there were noises in it, 
strange creaks and flutterings that thrilled our marrows. 
AVe prayed till we were weary, then for my part I tried to 
doze, only to find that at such a time sleep was worse than 
waking, for my imagination peopled it with visions till it 
seemed to me that all the painted horrors on the walls of 
the chamber took life, and enacted themselves before my 
eyes. 



120 HEART OF THE WORLD 

I heard the groaning of the martyrs, and the cruel jeers 
of those who watched their agony, urged on by the hard- 
faced abbot, whose picture hung above us. Then the 
vision changed and I seemed to see the tragedy of the two 
Americans, of whose fate the senor had told me and whose 
blood still stained the floor. The darkness opened as it 
were, and I saw the beds on which they were sleeping 
heavily, stalwart men in the prime of life. 

Then appeared figures standing over them, Don Pedro, 
Don Jose, and others, while from the shadows behind 
peeped the wicked face of their countryman, Don Smith. 
The bed-clothes were twitched away and once more all was 
black, but in the darkness I heard a sound of blows and 
groaning, of the hurrying feet of murderers, and the clink- 
ing of bags of money stolen from the dead men. Now the 
sefior touched me and I woke with a start. 

" Hark," he whispered into my ear, " I hear men creep- 
ing about the room." 

" For the love of God, be silent," I answered, gripping 
his hand. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE DUEL 

V we placed our ears against the panelling and listened. 
First we heard creaks that were loud in the stillness, then 
soft heavy noises such as are made by a cat when it jumps 
from a height to the ground, and a gentle rubbing as of 
stockinged feet upon the floor; After this for some sec- 
onds came silence that presently was broken by the clink 
of steel, and the sound of heavy blows delivered upon a 
soft substance with swords and knives. The murderers 
were driving their weapons through the bed-clothes, think- 



THE DUEL 121 

ing that we slept beneath them. Next we heard whisper- 
ings and muttered oaths, then a voice, Don Jose's, said : 

"Be careful, the beds are empty." 

Another instant and candles were lit, for their light 
reached us through small peep-holes in the panel, and by 
putting our eyes to these we could see what passed in the 
room. There before us we beheld Don Jose, Don Smith, 
and four of their companions, all armed with knives or 
machetes, while, framed, as it were in the wall, in the 
place that had been occupied by the picture of the abbot, 
stood our host, Don Pedro, holding a candle above his 
head, and glaring with his fish-like eyes into every corner 
of the room. 

" Where are they ? " he said. " Where are the wizards ? 
Find them quick and kill them." 

Now the men ran to and fro about the chamber, drag- 
ging aside the beds and staring at the pictures on the wall 
as though they expected to see us there. 

" They are gone," said Jose at length, " that Indian, 
Ignatio, has conjured them away. He is a demonio and not 
a man ; I thought it from the first." 

" Impossible ! " cried Don Pedro, who was white with 
rage and fear. " The door has been watched ever since 
they entered it, and no living thing could force those bars. 
Search, search, they must be hidden." 

" Search yourself," answered Don Smith sullenly, " they 
are not here. Perhaps they discovered the trick of the 
picture and escaped down the passages to the chapel." 

" It cannot be," said Don Pedro again, " for just now I 
was in the chapel and saw no signs of them. We have some 
traitor among us who has led them from the house ; by 
Heaven, if I find him out " and he uttered a fearful oath. 

" Shall we bring the dogs ? " asked Jose, and I trembled 
at his words : " they might smell their footing." 

" Fool, what is the use of dogs in a place where all of you 
have been tramping ?" answered the father. " To-morrow 

K 



122 HEART OF THE WORLD 

at dawn we will try them outside, for these men must be 
found and killed, or we are ruined. Already the authorities 
suspect us because of the disappearance of the two Ameri- 
canos, and they will send soldiers from Vera Cruz to shoot 
us down, for without doubt this Inglese is rich and power- 
ful. It is certain that they are not here, but perhaps they 
are hidden elsewhere in the building. Come, let us search 
the passages and the roof/' and he vanished into the wall, 
followed by the others, leaving the chamber as dark and 
silent as it had been before their coming. 

For a while the danger had passed, and we pressed each 
other's hands in gratitude, for to speak or even to whisper 
we did not dare. Ten minutes or more went by, when once 
again we heard sounds, and a light appeared in the room, 
borne in the hand of Don Pedro, who was accompanied by 
his son, Don Jose. 

" They have vanished," said the old man, " the devil 
their master knows how. Well, to-morrow we must hunt 
them out if possible, till then nothing can be done. You 
were a fool to bring them here, Jose. Have I not told you 
that no money should tempt me to have more to do with 
the death of white men ? " 

" I did it for revenge, not money/' answered Jos6. 

"A nice revenge/' said his father, "a, revenge that is 
likely to cost us all our lives, even in this country. I tell 
you that, if they are not found to-morrow and silenced, I 
shall leave this place and travel into the interior, where 
no law can follow us, for I do not wish to be shot down 
like a dog. 

" Listen, Jose, bid those rascals to give up the search 
and go to bed, it is useless. Then do you come quietly to 
my room, and we will visit the Indian and his daughter. 
If we are to screw their secret out of them, it must be 
done to-night, for, like a fool, I told that Englishman the 
story when the wine was in me, thinking that he would 
never live to repeat it." 



THE DUEL 123 

ef Yes, yes, it must be to-night, for to-morrow we may 
have to fly. But what if the brutes won't speak, father ? " 

" We will find means to make them/' answered the old 
man with a hideous chuckle ; "but whether they speak or 
not, they must be silenced afterwards " and he drew 
his hand across his throat, adding, " Come." 

An hour passed while we stood in the hole trembling 
with excitement, hope, and fear, and then once more we 
heard footfalls, followed presently by the sound of a voice 
whispering on the further side of the panel. 

" Are you there, lord ? " the whisper said. ' ' It is I, 
Luisa." 

" Yes," I answered. 

Now she touched the spring and opened the panel. 

" Listen," she said, " they have gone to sleep all of 
them, but before dawn they will be up again to search for 
you far and wide. Therefore you must do one of two 
things ; lie hid here, perhaps for days, or take your chance 
of escape at once." 

" How can we escape ?" I asked. 

" There is but one way, lord, through the chapel. The 
door into it is locked, but I can show you a place from 
which the priests used to watch those below, and thence, if 
you are brave, you can drop to the ground beneath, for 
the height is not great. Once there, you can escape into 
the garden through the window over the altar, which is 
broken, as I have seen from without, though to do so, 
perhaps, you will have to climb upon each other's shoulders. 
Then you must fly as swiftly as you can by the light of the 
moon, which has risen. The dogs have been gorged and 
tied up, so, if the Heart is your friend, you may yet go 
unharmed." 

Now I spoke to the seflor, saying : 

"Although the woman does not know it, I think it 
likely that we shall find company in this chapel, seeing 
that the Indian and his daughter are imprisoned there, 



124 HEART OF THE WORLD 

where Don Pedro and Jose have gone to visit them. The 
risk is great, shall we take it ? " 

" Yes/' answered the senor after a moment's thought, 
" for it is better to take a risk than to perish by inches in 
this hole of starvation, or perhaps to be discovered and 
murdered in cold blood. Also we have travelled far and 
undergone much to find this Indian, and if we lose our 
chance of doing so, we may get no other. " 

" What do you say, Molas ? " I asked. 

" I say that the words of the senor are wise, also that it 
matters little to me what we do, since whether I turn to 
left or right death waits me on my path." 

Now one by one we climbed through the false panel, and 
by the light of the moon Luisa led us across the chamber 
to the spot between the beds, where hangs the picture of 
the abbot, which picture, that is painted on a slab of wood, 
proved to be only a cunningly devised door constructed to 
swing upon a pivot. 

Placing her knee on the threshold of the secret door, 
Luisa scrambled into the passage beyond. When the rest 
of us stood by her side, she closed the panel, and, bidding 
us cling to one another and be silent, she took me by the 
hand and guided us through some passages till at length 
she whispered : 

" Be cautious now, for we come to the place whence you 
must drop into the chapel, and there is a stairway to your 
right." 

We passed the stairway and turned a corner, Luisa still 
leading. 

Next instant she staggered back into my arms, murmur- 
ing, "Mother of Heaven ! the ghosts ! the ghosts I" In- 
deed, had I not held her she would have fled. Still grasp- 
ing her hand, I pushed forward to find myself standing in 
a small recess the one I showed you, Senor Jones that 
was placed about ten feet above the floor of the chapel, 
and, like other places in this house, so arranged that the 



THE DUEL 125 

abbot or monk in authority, without being seen himself, 
could see and hear all that passed beneath him. 

Of one thing I am sure, that during all the generations 
that are gone no monk watching here ever saw a stranger 
sight than that which met my eyes. The chancel of the 
chapel was lit up by shafts of brilliant moonlight that 
poured through the broken window, and by a lamp which 
stood upon the stone altar. Within the circle of strong 
light thrown by this lamp were four people, namely, Don 
Pedro, his son Don Jose, an old Indian, and a girl. 

On either side of the altar then, as now, rose two carven 
pillars of sapote wood, the tops of which were fashioned 
into the figures of angels, and to these columns the old In- 
dian and the woman were tied, one to each column, their 
hands being joined together at the back of the pillars in 
such a manner as to render them absolutely helpless. My 
eyes rested first upon the woman, who was nearest to me, 
and seeing her, even as she was then, dishevelled, worn 
with pain and hunger, her proud face distorted by agony 
of mind and impotent rage, I no longer wondered that both 
Molas and Don Pedro had raved about her beauty. 

She was an Indian, but such an Indian as I had never 
known before, for in colour she was almost white, and her 
dark and waving hair hung in masses to her knees. Her 
face was oval and small-featured, and in it shone a pair of 
wonderful dark-blue eyes, while the clinging white robe 
she wore revealed the loveliness of her tall and delicate 
shape. 

Bad as was the girl's plight, that of the old man her 
father, who was none other than the Zibalbay we had come 
to seek, seemed even worse. As Molas had described him, 
he was thin and very tall, with white hair and beard, wild 
and hawk-like eyes, and aquiline features, nor had Don 
Pedro spoken more than the truth when he said that he 
looked like a king. His robe had been torn from him, 
leaving him half naked, and on his forehead, breast, and 



126 HEART OF THE WORLD 

arms were blood and bruises which clearly had been caused 
by a riding-whip that lay broken at his feet. 

It was not difficult to guess who had broken it, for in 
front, of the old man, breathing heavily and wiping the 
perspiration from his brow, stood Don Jose. 

" This mule won't stir," he said to his father in Span- 
ish ; " ask the girl, it must wake her up to see the old man 
knocked about." 

Then Don Pedro slipped off the altar rail upon which he 
had been seated, and, advancing to the woman, he peered at 
her with his leaden eyes : 

" My dear," he said to her in the Maya language, " this 
sight must grieve you. Put an end to it then by telling 
us of that place where so much gold is hidden." 

" As with my last breath, daughter," broke in Zibalbay, 
" I command you to say nothing, no, not if you see them 
murder me by inches before your eyes." 

" Silence, you dog." said Don Jose, striking him across 
the lips with his hand. 

" Oh ! that I were free to avenge you ! " gasped the girl 
as she strained and tore at the ropes which held her. 

"Don't be in a hurry, my love," sneered Don Jose, 
" wait a while and you will have yourself to avenge as well 
as your father. If he won't speak I think we can find a 
way to make you talk, only I do not want to be rough with 
you unless I am forced to it. You are too pretty, much 
too pretty." 

The girl shivered, gasping with fear and hate, and was 
silent. 

"What shall we try him with now ?" he went on, ad- 
dressing Don Pedro ; "hot steel or cold ? Make up your 
mind, for I am growing tired. Well, if you won't, just 
hand me that machete, will you ? Now, friend," he said, 
addressing the Indian, " for the last time I ask you to tell 
us where is that temple full of gold, of which you spoke to 
your daughter in my father's hearing ? " 




'Oh! that I were free to avenge you! 



THE DUEL 127 

"There is no such place, white man," he answered 
sullenly. 

"Indeed, friend ! Then will you explain where you 
found those little ingots, which we captured from the 
Indian who had been visiting you, and whence came this 
machete?" and he pointed to the weapon in his hand. 

It was a sword of great beauty, as I could see even from 
where we stood, made not of steel, but of hardened copper, 
and having for a handle a female figure with outstretched 
arms fashioned in solid gold. 

" The machete was given to me by a friend," said the 
Indian, " I do not know where he got it." 

" Really," answered Jose with a brutal laugh, " perhaps 
you will remember presently. Here, father, warm the 
point of the machete in the lamp, will you, while I tell our 
guest how we are going to serve him and his daughter." 

Don Pedro nodded, and, taking the sword, he held the 
tip of it over the flame, while Jose bending forward whis- 
pered into the Indian's ear, pointing from time to time to 
the girl, who, overcome with faintness or horror, had sunk 
to the ground, where she was huddled in a heap half hid- 
den by the masses of her hair. 

"Are you white men then devils?" said the old man 
at length, with a groan that seemed to burst from the bot- 
tom of his heart, "and is there no law or justice among 
you?" 

"Not at all, friend," answered Jose, " we are good fellows 
enough, but times are hard and we must live. As for the 
rest, we don't trouble over much about law in these parts, 
and I never heard that unbaptised Indian dogs have any 
right to justice. Now, once more, will you guide us to the 
place whence that gold came, leaving your daughter here 
as hostage for our safety ? " 

" Never !" cried the Indian, "better that we two should 
perish a hundred times, tha^i that the ancient secrets of 
my people should pass to such as you." 



128 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" So you have secrets after all ! Father, is the sword 
hot ? " asked Jose. 

"One minute more, son/' said the old man, quietly 
turning the point in the flame. 

This was the scene that we witnessed, and these were the 
words that astonished our ears. 

"It is time to interfere," muttered the sen or, and, plac- 
ing his hand upon the rail, he prepared to drop into the 
church. 

Now a thought struck me, and I drew him back to the 
passage. 

" Perhaps the door is open," I said. 

" Are you going in there ? " asked the girl Luisa. 

" Certainly," I replied ; "we must rescue these people, 
or die with them." 

" Then, sefiors, farewell, I have done all I can for you, 
and now the saints must be your guide, for if I am seen 
they will kill me, and I have a child for whose sake I 
desire to live. Again, farewell," and she glided away like 
a shadow. 

We crept forward down the stair. At the foot of it was 
a little door, which, as we had hoped, stood ajar. For 
a moment we consulted together, then we crawled on 
through the gloom towards the ring of light about the 
altar. Now Jose had the heated sword in his hand. 

" Look up, my dear, look up," he said to the girl, pat- 
ting her on the cheek. " I am about to baptize your excel- 
lent father according to the rites of the Christian religion, 
by marking him with a cross upon the forehead," and he 
advanced the glowing point of the sword towards the 
Indian's face. 

At that instant Molas pinned him from behind, causing 
him to drop the weapon, while I did the same office by 
Don Pedro, holding him so that, struggle as he might, he 
could not stir. 



THE DUEL 129 

" Make a sound, either of you, and you are dead/' said 
the seflor, picking up the machete and placing its hot 
point against Jose's breast, where it slowly burnt its way 
through his clothes. 

" What are we to do with these men ? " he asked. 

"Kill them as they would have killed us," answered 
Molas ; "or, if you fear the task, cut loose the old man 
yonder and let him avenge his own and his daughter's 
wrongs." 

"What say you, Ignatio ?" 

"I seek no man's blood, but for our own safety it is well 
that these wretches should die. Away with them ! " 

Now Don Pedro began to bleat inarticulately in his 
terror, and that hero, Jose, burst into tears and pleaded 
for his life, writhing with pain the while, for the point of 
the sword scorched him. 

" You are an English gentleman," he groaned, " you 
cannot butcher a helpless man as though he were an ox." 

"As you tried to butcher us in the chamber yonder, us, 
who saved your life," answered the seflor. "Still, you are 
right, I cannot do it because, as you say, I am a gentle- 
man. Molas, loose this dog, and if he tries to run, put 
your knife through him. Jose Moreno, you have a sword 
by your side, and I hold one in my hand ; I will not mur- 
der you, but we have a quarrel, and we will settle it here 
and now." 

" You are mad, seflor," I said, " to risk your life thus, 
I myself will kill him rather than it should be so." 

" Will you fight if I loose you, Jose Moreno ? " he 
asked, making me no answer, " or will you be killed where 
you stand ? " 

" I will fight," he replied. 

" Good. Let him free, Molas, and be ready with your 
knife." 

" I command you," I began, but already the man was 
loose and the senor stood waiting for him, his back to the 



130 HEART OF THE WORLD 

door, and grasping the Indian machete handled with the 
golden woman. 

Now Jose glanced round as though he sought a means of 
escape, but there was none, for in front was the machete 
and behind was the knife of Molas. For some seconds ten 
perhaps they stood facing each other in the ring of the 
lamp-light, whilst the moonbeams played faintly about 
their heads. We watched in utter silence, the Indian girl 
shaking the long hair from her face, and leaning forward 
as far as her bonds would allow, that she might see this 
battle to the death between him who had insulted and tor- 
mented her, and the noble-looking white man who had ap- 
peared out of the gloom to bring her deliverance. 

It was a strange scene, for the contrast of light and 
darkness, or of good and evil, is not greater than was that 
of these two men, and what made it stranger were the place 
and hour. Behind them was the half -lit emptiness of the 
deserted chapel, before them stood the holy crucifix and 
the desecrated altar of God, and beneath their feet lay the 
bones of the forgotten dead, whose spirits mayhap were 
watching them from the shadows as earnestly as did our 
living eyes. Yes, that midnight scene of death and ven- 
geance enacted in the House of Peace was very strange, and 
even now it thrills my blood to think of it. 

From the moment that I saw them fronting each other, 
my fears for the issue vanished. Victory was written on 
the calm features of the senor, and more especially in his 
large blue eyes, that of a sudden had grown stern as those 
of an avenging angel, while the face of Jose told only of 
baffled fury struggling with bottomless despair. He was 
about to die, and the terror of approaching death unnerved 
him. 

Still it was he who struck the first, for, stepping forward, 
he aimed a desperate blow at the seflor's head, who, spring- 
ing aside, avoided it, and in return ran him through the left 
arm. With a cry of pain, the Mexican sprang back, fol- 



THE DUEL 131 

lowed by the sefior, at whom he cut from time to time, 
but without result, for every blow was parried. 

Now they were within the altar rails, and now his back 
was against one of the carved pillars of sapote wood, that 
to which the girl was tied. Further he could not fly, but 
stayed there, laying about him wildly, so that the woman 
at the other side of the pillar crouched upon the ground 
to avoid the sweep of his sword. 

Then the end came, for the sefior, who was waiting his 
chance, drew suddenly within reach, only to step back so 
that the furious blow aimed at his head struck with a ring- 
ing sound upon the marble floor, where the mark of it may 
yet be seen. Before Don Jose, whose arm was numbed by 
the shock, could lift the sword again, the sefior ran in, 
and for the second time thrust with all his strength. But 
now the aim was truer, for his machete pierced the Mexi- 
can through the heart, so that he fell down and died there 
upon the altar step. 

Now I must tell of my own folly that went near to bring- 
ing us all to death. You will remember that I was holding 
Don Pedro, and how it came about I know not, but in my 
joy and agitation I slacked my grip, so that with a sudden 
twist he was able to tear himself from my hands, and in a 
twinkling of an eye was gone. 

I bounded after him, but too late, for as I reached the 
door it was slammed in my face, nor could I open it, for 
on the chapel side were neither key nor handle. 

" Fly," I cried, rushing back to the altar, " he has es- 
,caped, and will presently be here with the rest." 

The sefior had seen, and already was engaged in sever- 
ing with his sword the rope that bound the girl, while 
Molas cut loose her father. Now I leapt upon the altar 
may the sacrilege be forgiven to my need and, springing 
at the stonework of the broken window, I made shift to 
pull myself up with the help of Molas pushing from below. 
Seated upon the window ledge I leaned down, and catch- 



I$2 HEART OF THE WORLD 

ing the Indian Zibalbay by the wrists, for he was too stiff 
to leap, with great efforts I dragged him to me, and bade 
him drop without fear to the ground, which was not more 
than ten feet below us. Next came his daughter, then the 
Seiior, and last of all, Molas, so that within three minutes 
from the escape of Don Pedro we stood unhurt outside 
the chapel among the bushes of a garden. 

" Where to now ? " I asked, for the place was strange to 
me. 

The girl, Maya, looked round her, then she glanced up 
at the heavens. 

" Follow me," she said, " I know a way," and started 
down the garden at a run. 

Presently we came to a wall the height of a man, beyond 
which was a thick hedge of aloes. Over the wall we 
climbed, and through the aloes we burst a path, not with- 
out doing ourselves some hurt, for the thorns were sharp, 
to find ourselves in a milpa or corn-field. Here the girl 
stopped, again searching the stars, and at that moment we 
heard sounds of shouting, and, looking back, saw lights 
moving to and fro in the hacienda. 

"We must go forward or perish," I said, "Don Pedro 
has aroused his men." 

Then she dashed into the milpa, and we followed her. 
There was no path, and the cornstalks, that stood high 
above us, caught our feet and shook the dew in showers 
upon our heads, till our clothes were filled with water like 
a sponge. Still we struggled on, one following the other, 
for fifteen minutes or more, till at length we were clear 
of the cultivated land and standing on the borders of the 
forest. 

"Halt," I said, "where do we run to ? The road lies 
to the right, and by following it we may reach a town." 

"To be arrested as murderers," broke in the sefior. 
" You forget that Jose Moreno is dead at my hands, and 
his father will swear our lives away, or that at the best we 



HOW MOLAS DIED 133 

shall be thrown into prison. No, no, we must hide in the 
bush/' 

" Sirs," said the old Indian, speaking for the first time, 
" I know a secret place in the forest, an ancient and 
ruined building, where we may take refuge for a while if 
we can reach it. But first I ask, who are you ? " 

"You should know me, Zibalbay," said Molas, "seeing 
that I am the messenger whom you sent to search for him 
that you desire to find, the Lord and Keeper of the Heart," 
and he pointed to me. 

"Are you that man ?" asked the Indian. 

" I am," I answered, "and I have suffered much to find 
you, but now is no time for talk ; guide us to this hiding- 
place of yours, for our danger is great." 

Then once more the girl took the lead, and we plunged 
forward into the forest, often stumbling and falling in the 
darkness, till the dawn broke in the east, and the shout- 
ings of our pursuers died away. 



CHAPTER X 

HOW MOLAS DIED 

FOE some few minutes we rested to recover our breath, 
then we started forward again. In front went the girl, 
Maya, our guide, whom the senor led by the hand, while 
behind followed Zibalbay supported by Molas and myself. 
At first these two had run as quickly as the rest of us, but 
now all the fatigues and terrors that they had undergone 
took hold of them, so that from time to time they were 
forced to stop to rest. This was little to be wondered at, 
indeed, seeing that during five days they had eaten no solid 
food, for it had been Don Pedro's purpose to starve their 



134 HEART OF THE WORLD 

secret out of them. Doubtless he would have succeeded in 
this design, or in doing them to death, had it not been for 
a quantity of a certain preparation of the cuca leaf, mixed 
with pounded meat and other ingredients, which they car- 
ried with them. Zibalbay had the secret of this Indian 
food, and by the help of it he and his daughter had jour- 
neyed far across unpeopled wastes, for so wonderful are its 
properties that a piece no larger than a bullet will serve to 
stay a man's stomach for twenty-four hours, even when his 
power is taxed by work or travel. On this nutriment they 
had sustained themselves to the amazement of their captor, 
who could not discover whence they drew their strength ; 
still it is a stimulant rather than a food, and so great was 
their craving to fill themselves, that as they ran they 
plucked cobs of the Indian corn and devoured them. 

Our path lay through a tropical forest so dense that, 
even when the sun shone, the gloom was that of twilight. 
Many sorts of huge and uncouth trees grew in it, whereof 
the boughs were starred with orchids and hung with trail- 
ing ferns, or in placed with long festoons 01 grey Spanish 
moss that gave them a very strange and unnatural appear- 
ance. Up these trees climbed creepers, some of them 
thicker than a man's thigh, and beneath them the ground 
was clothed with soft-wooded bush, or with vast brakes of 
a plant that in Mexico attains a height of from ten to 
twelve feet, which the sefior told me is cultivated in Eng- 
lish gardens under the name of Indian Shot. Slowly and 
with much toil we forced a path through this mass of 
vegetation. Now we were creeping over the rotten trunks 
of fallen and fern-encumbered trees, now foot by foot we 
must make our way between the stout stems of the Indian 
Shot, and now our clothes were caught and our flesh was 
torn by the hook-like thorns and brambles, or our feet 
tripped in the roots of climbing plants. No breath of air 
penetrated that measureless thicket, whereof the stagnant 
atmosphere, laden with the decay of ages, choked and al- 



HOW MO LAS DIED 135 

most overpowered us, causing the sweat to start from every 
pore. Above us, hiding the sky, hung masses of deep 
green foliage, beneath which we struggled on in the solemn 
gloom and the silence that was broken only from time to 
time by the grunting of an ape, or by a distant crash, as 
some great tree, after centuries of life, fell with a noise like 
thunder to the earth from whence it sprang. 

This forest that seemed so destitute of life was peopled 
by millions of insects, all of them venomous. Garrapatas, 
tiny grey flies, wood- wasps, and ants black and red, tor- 
mented us with their bites and stings till we groaned 
aloud in misery, then, remembering our danger, pushed 
on again. 

Thus two hours and more passed, till, reaching a little 
stream that ran through a ravine in the forest, we paused 
to drink and to cool our fevered feet and hands. Zibalbay 
sank exhausted upon the bank, where I brought him water 
in my sombrero, while his daughter sat herself down on a 
stone in the stream, suffering it to flow over her feet and 
ankles, that by now were swollen with ant-bites and bleed- 
ing from the cuts of thorns and grasses. Presently she 
looked up, and, seeing the senor, who stood upon the bank 
talking to me, she invited him with a motion of her hand 
to seat himself beside her. 

" What is your name, white man ?" she asked. 

" James Strickland, lady." 

"James Strickland," she repeated with some difficulty, 
" I thank you, James Strickland, for rescuing my father 
from torment and me from insult; and because of that 
deed, I, Maya of the Heart, whom many have served, am 
your servant for ever." 

" You should thank my friend, Don Ignatio," he said, 
pointing to me. 

For a few moments she looked at me searchingly, then 
replied, " I thank him also, but you I thank the most, for 
your hand rid me of that hateful man and saved us." 

L 



136 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" It is early to return thanks, lady," he said ; " we are 
not out of danger yet." 

" I have little fear now that we have escaped from that 
dreadful house," she answered almost indifferently, "since 
our hiding-place is at hand. Also how can they find us in 
this forest ? Hark ! what was that ? " 

As she spoke a faint and distant sound fell upon our 
ears, such a sound as might have been made by a bell 
struck far away at night. 

" That is how they will find us," he said, springing to 
his feet. " Do you hear, Ignatio ? The dogs have hit 
our trail. Which way does our road run now, lady ? " 

" Along the banks of the stream." 

" Then we must go forward in the water,"* said the 
senor, " it is our only chance, for the hounds cannot track 
us there." 

Now we began to scramble down the bed of the stream 
as fast as the boulders and the weariness of Zibalbay would 
allow. Fortunately it was not a broad river, nor very 
deep, still sometimes we could scarcely stand in the rapids, 
and twice, not daring to set foot upon the bank, we were 
forced to swim the length of the pools, which we did in 
terror fearing lest they should be haunted by alligators. 
For something over an hour we followed the stream thus, 
till suddenly Maya halted, saying that if we would gain the 
building where they had dwelt, we must leave the water 
and plunge into the forest. By now we were exhausted, 
indeed, unless he were carried, the old Indian, Zibalbay, 
could not have gone another mile ; so, notwithstanding 
the danger of setting foot upon the land, on learning that 
the place was near and that food was to be found in it, 
we hesitated no longer, but once more began to thread 
the bush. Not more than three hundred paces from the 
banks of the river we came upon a high mound densely 
overgrown with trees, between the boles of which appeared 
masses of cut stone. 



HOW MO LAS DIED 137 

" This is the place/' gasped Zibalbay. ' ' Look, yonder 
above ns are the walls of the temple, and here is the stair- 
way that led to it," and he pointed to a long flight of 
crumbling stone steps, almost hidden in ferns and bushes, 
which stretched from the base of the pyramid to the an- 
cient Indian fane on its crest. Up these steps we went with 
caution, for the climb was dangerous, Molas carrying Zi- 
balbay upon his broad back, since so weary was he that the 
old Indian could mount them in no other fashion. 

This staircase was built in three flights, the top flight, 
now almost entirely broken away, emerging on what once 
had been a broad and splendid terrace, but to-day was a 
chaos of stonework, in the crevices of which grew bushes 
and even large trees. Over the head of the stairway still 
stood a colossal arch sculptured with the figures of gods 
and beasts. This arch was in the last stage of decay, in- 
deed the crown of it, a mass of masonry that must have 
weighed between one and two hundred tons, had been 
nearly separated from its supports hy the action of time and 
rain, aided perhaps by a shock of earthquake, and hung 
threateningly over the top steps of the stair. In truth so 
slight were the attachments which remained between it and 
its supporting side columns and buttresses, that at first 
sight it seemed as though it must fall at once. A closer 
examination showed, however, that it was held in place by 
three or four great roots, which, springing from trees that 
grew upon the crown of the arch, in the course of years had 
thrust themselves deep into the crevices of the masonry of 
the massive pillars, and through their foundations into the 
soil beneath. Beyond the arch, on the further side of the 
terrace, rose the ruined temple, a long single-storied build- 
ing with a flat roof whereon grew many shrubs and palms. 

Passing through the central doorway of this temple, 
Maya led us into a chamber decorated everywhere with 
serpents carved in stone, which had been occupied, and re- 
cently, for it was dean, and upon the floor were ashes and 



138 HEART OF THE WORLD 

bits of burnt wood. In the corner also lay a little pile of 
articles covered over with a serape that Maya hastened to 
remove, revealing amongst other things an earthen cooking- 
pot, a copper axe of similar workmanship to the machete 
with which the senor had killed Don Jose, two curiously 
fashioned blow-pipes with a supply of poisoned darts, and, 
lastly, bags containing dried flesh, beans, and cuca paste. 

" All is safe," she said ; " now let us eat that we may be 
strong to meet danger." 

While we were filling ourselves thankfully with the dried 
meat, the senor spoke to me, saying he hoped that our 
pursuit had been abandoned. 

" You can know little of these men to speak thus," I 
answered ; " they must hunt us down for their own sakes, 
also Don Pedro will certainly seek to avenge the blood of 
his son. Our only hope is that the water will baffle the 
hounds, or that, if they strike the place where we left it, the 
heat of the day may have killed our scent. But I fear that 
this Avill not be so, since the ground is damp beneath the 
trees." 

" Then what do you propose to do ? " he asked. " Start 
on again, or stop here ?" 

" Senor, we must stop here because we cannot travel 
farther, unless you would abandon the old man and his 
daughter. Moreover in the forest it would be easy to over- 
whelm us, but this place is hard to climb, and here at least we 
may die fighting. Let us make ready for the worst, sefior." 

" How are we to make ready," he asked, " when we have 
nothing to fight with except machetes and Indian blow- 
pipes ? The powder in the pistol flasks is damp and the 
caps will miss fire, so that if we are attacked our death is 
certain." 

" It seems so," I answered, " yet if it pleases God we 
may live. Yonder lie stones in plenty ; let us pile them 
up beneath the archway, perhaps we can kill some of our 
foes by rolling them down the steps." % 



HO W MO LAS DIED 139 

This we did, then, while Maya watched us. At length the 
task was finished, and as we turned to leave the heaps of 
stones, of a sudden we heard a dog baying down by the 
river, followed by a sound of men and horses forcing a path 
through the bush. For a while we stared at each other in 
silence, then Molas said, "They are coming." 

"If so I wish they would come quickly," answered the 
senor. 

" Why, White Man ? Are you afraid ? " asked Maya. 

"Yes, very much," he answered, with a little laugh, 
" for the odds are heavy, and probably we shall soon be 
killed, that is, all the men among us will be killed. Does 
not the prospect frighten you ? " 

"Why should it," she answered, with a shrug and a 
smile, "seeing that if it comes to the worst, I shall be 
killed also and spared a long journey home ? " 

" How can you be sure of that, Lady ? " 

" So," she answered, holding a tiny blow-pipe dart be- 
fore his eyes. " If I prick myself with this here " and 
she touched the large vein in her neck, " in one minute I 
shall be asleep, and in two I shall be dead." 

" I understand ; but you- talk of death very easily for 
one so young and beautiful." 

"If so, senor, it is because I have not found life too 
soft, nor " she added with a sigh " do I know what des- 
tiny awaits me in the future ; but I do know that when we 
sleep upon the Heart of Heaven, we shall find peace if 
nothing more." 

" I hope so," said the sefior. " Look, here they come," 
and as he spoke a party of seven or eight men, three of 
them riding on mules, appeared at the foot of the mound, 
and, dismounting, picketed their animals to trees. 

" Now for it," said the senor, rising and shaking nim- 
self like a dog that leaves the water. " I wonder how 
many of us will be left alive when this sun sets." 

As he spoke one of the men reached the foot of the stair- 



140 HEART OF THE WORLD 

way holding a great hound in a leash. For a moment the 
dog sniffed the stones, then, lifting his head, he bayed aloud, 
whereat the band shouted, for they knew that they had 
trapped us. Still for a while they did not advance, but, 
gathering themselves in a knot, they consulted together 
earnestly. We looked at each other in despair, for truly 
our case was desperate. Fly we could not, and we had 
no arms wherewith to fight, therefore it seemed certain 
that within some few minutes we must lose our lives at the 
hands of these murderers, if indeed they chose to kill us 
outright in mercy. The senor hid his face in his hands 
for awhile, then he looked up and said, 

" Can we bargain with them, Ignatio ? " 

" Impossible/' I answered, "what have we to give that 
they cannot take ?" 

"Then there is nothing for it except to die as bravely as 
we may," he answered. " This is the end of our search 
for the Golden City. The quest has not been a lucky one, 
Ignatio." 

Now the old Indian, Zibalbay, who was crouched upon 
the ground beside us, spoke for the first time, saying, 

" Friends, why do you not fly ? Doubtless you can find 
a path down the further side of the pyramid, and in the, 
forest you may hide from these men." 

" How can we fly," answered the sefior, " when you have 
no strength to walk a step ? " 

" I am old and ready to die," he answered ; " leave me 
here, and be sure that when the time comes I shall know 
how to slip through the grasp of these villains. My daugh- 
ter, go you with them. You have the holy symbol, and 
should you escape and prove this stranger to be the man 
whom we seek, lead him to our home that things may be- 
fall as they are fated." 

"Peace, my father," said Maya, throwing her arms about 
his neck,, "together we will live or perish. These .sefiors 
may go if it pleases them, but here I stay with you." 



HOW MOLAS DIED 141 

"And so do 1," said Molas, " for I weary of flying from 
the death that dogs me. Also it is too late to talk of 
flight, for look, they are coming up the stair, the eight of 
them with Don Pedro and the Americano at their head." 

I looked ; it was true. Already they had climbed half 
the steps of the first flight. 

" Oh for some rifles ! " groaned the senor. 

" It is useless to cry for what we have not," I answered. 
" God can help us if He wishes, and if He does not, we 
must bow us to His will." 

Then there was silence, broken only by the voice of Zi- 
balbay, who, standing behind us, lifted his hands to heaven 
and prayed aloud to his gods to bring a vengeance upon our 
foes. Now we could see through the trees and bushes that 
the men were beginning to climb the second flight. 

" Come, let us do something," said the senor, and, run- 
ning to the piles of stones which we had prepared, he 
called to us to help him roll the heaviest of them upon 
the enemy. This we did for awhile, but without effect, for 
the tree-trunks turned our missiles ; moreover those against 
whom they were directed, taking cover at the sides of the 
stairway, opened so sharp a fire on us with their rifles, that 
in a few minutes we were driven from the stone heaps and 
forced to retreat behind the shelter of the arch. 

Now they came on again, till presently they reached the 
foot of the third flight, and paused to take breath. Then 
it was that Molas, seizing one of the Indian blow-pipes, 
ran out on to the terrace, followed by the senor, though 
why the latter went I do not know, for he could not use 
this weapon. Before the men beneath were aware of their 
presence, Molas had set the blow-pipe to his lips and dis- 
charged the poisoned dart among them. As it chanced it 
struck the Texan Smith full in the throat. Watching 
round the corner of the arch, I saw him lift his hand to 
pull out the dart, then of a sudden he fell to the ground, 
and at that instant a storm of bullets swept through the 



142 HEART OF THE WORLD 

archway, aimed at Molas and the senor as they fled back 
for refuge. I saw Molas fall and the senor stop to lift him 
to his feet, and, as he was in the very act, a patch of red ap- 
pear upon his face. Another moment and they were under 
cover, 

" Are you hurt ? " I asked of the senor. 
" " No, no," he answered ; " my cheek was grazed by a 
bullet, that is all. Look to Molas, he is shot in the side." 

" Leave me," said Molas, " it is nothing." 

Then we were silent, only Maya sobbed a little as she 
strove to staunch the blood that flowed from the sefiors 
wound with cobwebs which she gathered from among the 
stones. 

" Do not trouble, lady," he said, with a sad smile, "for 
soon there will be other wounds that cannot be dressed. 
What shall you do?" 

By way of answer she showed him the poisoned dart which 
she held in the hollow of her hand. 

" I cannot advise you otherwise," he said. " Farewell, 
I am glad to have met you and I hope that we may meet 
again yonder," and he glanced towards the sky. " Now 
you had best say good-bye to your father, for our time is 
short." She nodded, went to the old man, Zibalbay, who 
stood silent, stroking his grey beard, and, putting her arms 
about his neck, she kissed him tenderly. 

Looking out carefully we saw that the men had dragged 
Don Smith to the side of the stairway, where some of them 
supported him while he died of the poison, and others 
watched for a chance to shoot us should we show ourselves 
upon the terrace. Presently he was dead, and, cursing us 
aloud, his companions commenced to mount the third 
flight with great caution, for they feared a snare. 

" Is there nothing to be done to save our lives ? " asked 
the senor, in a heavy voice. 

There was no answer, but of a sudden Molas, who was 
standing with one hand pressed upon the wound in his 



HOW MO LAS DIED 143 

side and the other before his eyes, turned and ran into 
the chamber behind us, whence he reappeared carrying the 
copper axe. Then, without speaking, he climbed the 
masonry of the archway with great swiftness, till he stood 
with his feet in the crack beneath the crown of the arch, 
which you will remember was held in place only by the 
tough tree-roots, that grew from it into the stonework of 
the buttresses. Supporting himself by a creeper with his 
left hand, with his right he struck blow after blow at the 
biggest of these roots, severing them one by one. Now we 
saw his purpose to send two hundred tons of stonework 
thundering down the stairway upon the heads of the mur- 
derers. 

" By heaven ! that is an answer to my question/' said 
the senor ; then he paused and added, " Come down, 
Molas ; if the arch falls, you will fall with it and be 
crushed/' 

"It matters little," he answered; "this is my doom 
day, that bullet has cut me inside and I bleed to death, and 
on this spot, as I have long feared, it is fated that I should 
die. Pray for my soul, and farewell." 

" Fare you well, you gallant man," said the senor. " I 
have no axe or I would come with you." 

" Farewell, Molas, my brother, true servant of the 
Heart," I echoed ; "of this I am sure, that you shall not 
lose your reward." 

Now three of the roots were severed, but the fourth and 
largest, which was thicker than a man's leg, remained, and 
at this Molas began to hew despairingly. 

" Are they near ? " he gasped, as the white chips flew. 

We peeped round the corner of the arch and saw that 
some seventy feet below us the band had halted on the slip- 
pery face of the pyramid, fearing they knew not what, for 
they heard the dull sound of the axe blows, but could not 
guess what it portended. One of their number was talking 
to Don Pedro, apparently urging something upon him to 



144 HEART OF THE WORLD 

which he did not agree, and in this way they wasted two 
minutes before at last the order was given to rush up the 
remaining steps and take the temple by storm. 

Two minutes it was but a short time, yet it meant 
much, for only a third of the root remained unsevered, 
and the bark cracking and peeling showed how great was 
the strain upon it. 

" Quick," whispered the senor, " they come," and as 
he spoke the handle of the axe broke and its head fell to 
the ground. 

" Now if the root holds we are lost," I said. 

But it was not to be, for Molas still had his heavy hunt- 
ing-knife, and with this he hewed frantically at the wood. 
At the third cut it began to part, torn slowly asunder as 
though by the strength of a giant, and while it gave, the 
vast superincumbent mass of masonry, which it had helped 
to support for so many years, shifted a little with a grind- 
ing sound, then hung again. 

" Come down, Molas, come down !" cried the sen or, 

But Molas would not. He struck one more blow, sever- 
ing the root, then with a shout of farewell, either through 
faintness or by design, he cast himself forward with out- 
stretched arms against the face of the wall. His weight 
was little indeed, yet it seemed that it sufficed to turn the 
balance as dust turns a scale, for again the trembling mass 
moved perceptibly and the tall trees upon the top of it be- 
gan to nod as though beneath the sudden pressure of wind. 
Now it slid forward faster and faster, while sharp sounds 
like pistol-shots came from the heart of it, and the trees 
above bent like a rod beneath the rush of a fish. Now also 
for the first time the villains on the slope below perceived 
the doom that threatened them, and uttered such a yell as 
I had never heard. Some stood still and some flung them- 
selves down the stair, one only, Don Pedro himself, rushed 
forward. It was too late ; the mass of stonework, sixty feet 
long by twenty in breadth, was falling. It was falling it 






The mass of stonework fell, 



. taking Molas with it. 



HOW MOLAS DIED 145 

fell, taking Molas with it. With a roar like that of thunder 
it struck upon the stairway, and, bursting into fragments, 
swept it from end to end. No discharge of grape-shot 
could have been so terrible in its effects as this hurricane 
of stones that nothing could withstand, for even the big 
trees which stood in its path were snapped like sticks and 
borne away upon its crest, as the carved masonry that had 
been carried up the pyramid by the long labour of the In- 
dians of a bygone age, rushed downward to its foot. 

In less than a minute it was done, the sounds had died 
away, and nothing was left to tell of what had happened 
except a little dust and some remains that had been men. 
Of all those who stood upon the stairway only one sur- 
vived, Don Pedro, who had run forward in the hope of 
escaping the fall of the arch. As it chanced he was too 
late, for though the mass had missed him, a single stone 
struck him across the middle, breaking his bones and 
sweeping him to the foot of the first flight, but leaving 
him alive. 

When all was finished, and the dust had fallen to the 
earth again, the sefior spoke, saying, ' ' Let us go and 
search for the body of our deliverer." 

So we went, the three of us, leaving Zibalbay in the 
temple, but we could not find it ; doubtless to this day 
Molas lies buried beneath some of the larger blocks of 
masonry. There were other bodies indeed, from which 
we did not scruple to take the rifles and whatever else was 
likely to be of value to us. Better still, tied among some 
trees near the foot of the pyramid, we found four good 
mules, one of them laden with ammunition and provisions, 
for Don Pedro had come out determined to hunt us down, 
even if he must follow us for days. 

Having picketed the mules where they could graze, we 
returned to the temple, bearing with us food and drink, of 
which we stood in sore need. On our way up the steps, 



146 HEART OF THE WORLD 

Don Pedro called to us from where he lay broken and 
bleeding against an uprooted tree. 

" Water/' he cried, " give me water." 

The sefior gave him some mixed with brandy that we 
had found upon the sumpter mule. 

" Your heart is merciful/' said Maya gravely ; " I am 
not cruel, yet I think that I should suffer that dog to die 
untended." 

"We all of us have sins to pay for, Lady, and the 
thought of them should teach us charity, especially now 
when it has pleased God to spare us," answered the seflor. 

" I am dying," moaned the wretch ; " my presentiment 
has corne true, and death finds me amongst ruins. How 
dare I die who have been a murderer and a thief from my 
boyhood ? " 

The seflor shrugged his shoulders, for he could not 
answer this question. 

"Give me absolution," he went on, "for the love of 
Christ, give me absolution." 

" I cannot," said the seflor ; "I have no authority. 
Pray to Heaven to shrive you, for your time is short." 

Then he turned and went, but for a long time we were 
troubled by the last cries and blasphemies of this most evil 
man ; indeed they did not cease till sunset, when the devil 
came to claim his own. 



CHAPTER XI 

ZIBALBAY TELLS HIS MISSION 

WHEN we reached the ruins of the temple we ate and 
drank, then, knowing that we could travel no farther that 
night, I spoke, saying : 
" Some two months since, Zibalbay, you sent a message 



ZIBALBAY TELLS HIS MISSION 147 

by Molas, my foster-brother, that man who died to save us 
this day, to him who among the Indians is known as Lord 
of the Heart. Your messenger travelled fast and far, by 
sea and by land, till he found him and delivered the mes- 



" To whom did he deliver it ? " asked Zibalbay. 

" To me, for I am the man you seek, and with my com- 
panion I have journeyed here to find you, suffering many 
dangers and evils on the path." 

" Prove that you are the man/' and he asked me cer- 
tain secret questions, to all of which I returned answers. 

"You are instructed," he said at length, "yet something 
is lacking ; if, indeed, you are the Lord of the Heart, reveal 
its mystery to my eyes." 

" Nay," I answered, " it is you who seek me, not I you. 
To Molas, your messenger, you showed a certain symbol ; 
let me see that symbol, for then and not till then will I re- 
veal the mystery." 

Now he looked round him doubtfully, and said, " You I 
have proved, and this woman is my daughter and knows 
all ; but what of the white man ? Is it lawful that I should 
unveil the Heart before him ? " 

"It is lawful," I answered, "for this white man is my 
brother, and we are one till death. Also he is sworn of 
our brotherhood, and himself, for a while, was Lord and 
Holder of the Heart, for I passed it on to him when I 
thought that I lay dying, and to him cling its virtues and 
prerogatives. So it comes about that we have no secrets 
from each other ; that his ears are my ears, and his mouth 
is my mouth. Speak to us, then, as though we were one 
man, or be silent to both, for I vouch for him and he for 
me." 

"Are these things so, White Man?" asked Zibalbay, 
making the sign of brotherhood. 

" They are so," replied the seflor, giving the counter- 
sign. 



148 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" Then 1 speak," said Zibalbay, " I speak in the name of 
the Heart, and woe be to him who betrays the secrets that 
he learns under cover of this name. Come hither, daughter, 
and give me that which is hidden about you." 

Now Maya put her hands to her head, and drawing forth 
something from the dense masses of her hair, she passed it to 
her father. 

" Is this what you would see ? " he asked, holding the 
talisman in the light of the setting sun. 

I looked, and lo ! there before me was the very counter- 
part of that which had descended to me from my fore- 
fathers, and which I wore about my neck. 

"It would seem so, unless my sight deceives me," I 
answered ; " and is this what you have come so far to seek, 
Zibalbay ? " and I drew forth the ancient symbol of the 
Broken Heart. 

Now he leaned forward, and examined first the one half 
and then the other, searching them with his eyes. Then 
he clasped his hands and, looking to the heavens, said : 

" I thank thee, Nameless One, god of my fathers, that 
thou hast led my feet aright, and given it to mine eyes to 
see their desire. As thou hast prospered the beginning, so 
prosper thou the end, I beseech thee." 

Then he turned to me and continued as in an ecstasy : 

" Now have Day and Night come together, and soon shall 
the new sun rise, the sun of our glory, for already the 
dawn is breaking. Take that which is in your keeping, 
and I will take that which is in mine, for not here must 
they be joined, but far away. Listen, brethren, to my tale, 
which shall be brief, seeing that if it be the will of Heaven, 
your eyes shall prove my words where all things can be 
made clear to you, and if not, that of which little is told 
is the more easily forgotten. Perchance, my brethren, you 
have heard legends of that ancient undiscovered city, the 
last home of our race which is undefiled by the foot of the 
white conqueror, and the secret sanctuary of the pure faith 



ZIBALBAY TELLS HIS MISSION 149 

given to our forefathers by the divine Cucumatz, who is 
of some named Quetzal." 

" We have heard of it and greatly desire to see it," I 
answered. 

"It this be so," went on Zibalbay, "in us you have 
found those who can guide you to that city, of which I am 
the cacique and hereditary high priest, and my only child 
here is the heiress and lady. You wonder how it comes 
then that we, being of this condition, are found unguarded 
and alone, wandering like beggars in the land of the white 
man. Listen : The City of the Heart, as it is called, is of 
all cities the most beautiful and ancient, and once in the 
far past she ruled these lands from sea to sea, for her walls 
were built by one of those brethren whom the holy Cucu- 
matz, the white god, left to share his throne, after there 
had been war between the brethren and they separated, 
each becoming the father of a nation. So great was her 
power in the early days that all the cities whose ruins may 
be found buried in these forests were her tributaries, but 
as the years went by, hordes of barbarians rolled down 
upon her frontier towns so that they were lost to her. Still 
no enemies came near her gates, and she remained the 
richest and most powerful of the cities of the world. 

" Now the City of the Heart is built upon an island in 
the centre of a lake, but many thousands of her children 
lived upon the mainland, where they cultivated fields and 
dug in the earth for gold and gems. So she nourished, 
and her children with her, till twelve generations since, 
when there came tidings to the king of that day that a 
nation of white men had conquered the empires near the 
sea, putting their inhabitants to the sword and possessing 
themselves of their wealth. Tidings came also that these 
white men, having learned the tale of the City of the 
Heart and of the measureless treasures of gold with which 
it is adorned, purposed to seek it out to sack it. When 
the ruling cacique was sure that these things were true, he 

M 



150 HEART OF THE WORLD 

took counsel with his wise men and with the oracle of the 
god which is in the Sanctuary, and issued a decree that all 
those who lived upon the mainland should be brought 
within the walls of the city, so that the white men might 
find none to guide them thither. This was done then, and 
the spoilers sought in vain for many years, till it was re- 
ported among them that this legend of a town filled with 
gold was but a fable. Now, however, great sickness took 
hold of those who lived in the City of the Heart, because it 
was over full of men, so great a sickness, indeed, that soon 
there was space and to spare for all who remained within 
its walls. The sickness went away, but as the generations 
passed a new and a worse trouble fell upon our forefathers. 
The blood of the people grew old, and but few children 
were born to them. There were none left upon the main- 
land to replenish the race, and this is our law, a law which 
cannot be broken under pain of death, that no man or 
woman may leave our territories to seek a husband or a 
wife of different blood. 

" Thus, then, it has come about that the people have 
grown less and less, wasting away like snow upon a moun- 
tain top in summer, till at length they are dwindled to a 
few thousands, who in bygone days could count their num- 
ber by tens and twenties of thousands. Now I, Zibalbay, 
have ruled this city since I was young, and bitterly has it 
grieved me to know that before another hundred years have 
been added to the past, the city, Heart of the World, must 
become nothing but a waste and a home for the dead, 
though of that those who live therein to-day reck but little, 
for the people have no thought for the morrow, and the 
hearts of its nobles have become gross and their eyes blind. 

" But an ancient prophecy has come down to us from 
our forefathers, and it is, that when once more the two 
halves of the symbol of the Heart are laid side by side in 
their place upon the altar in the Sanctuary of the holy city, 
then from that hour she shall grow great again. Over this 



ZIBALBAY TELLS HIS MISSION 15* 

saying I brooded long, and long and often did I pray to 
that god whom I worship and whose high-priest I am, the 
Nameless god, Heart of Heaven and Lord of all the earth, 
that it would please him to give me light and wisdom 
whereby I might find that which was lost, and save the 
people from perishing as, in a season of drought, flowers 
perish for lack of rain, bringing forth no seed. At length 
upon a certain night it came about that a voice spoke to 
me in a dream answering my prayer, bidding me to wander 
forth from the country of the Heart and follow the ancient 
road towards the sea, for there near to the eastern shore I 
should find that which was lost. 

" Then I summoned the Council of the Heart and opened 
my mind to them, telling them of my dream, and that I 
purposed to obey it. But they made a mock of me, for 
they thought me mad, and said that I might go if I wished, 
for being their ruler they had no power to stay me, but 
that no man of the people should accompany me across the 
mountains, for that was against the ancient law. 

" I answered that it was well, and I would go alone since 
go I must, whereon my daughter rose in her place and said 
that she would journey with me, as she had a right to dp, 
and to this they must consent, though one of their num- 
ber spoke bitterly against it, for he was my nephew, and 
affianced to my daughter. Was it not so, Maya ? " 

" It was so," she answered with a smile. 

" To be short/' went on Zibalbay, " since my heart was 
set upon this mission, and my daughter yonder, who is 
wilful, would not be gainsayed of her desire to accompany 
me, Tikal, my nephew, was placed over the city to rule as 
cacique in my stead until I should return again. Then I 
left the city with this my daughter, many of the nobles and 
of the common people accompanying us across the lake and 
a day's journey beyond it to the mountain pass, where they 
bid us farewell with tears, for they were certain that we were 
mad and went to our deaths. 



152 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" Alone we crossed the mountains, and alone, following 
the traces of the ancient road, we travelled through the 
desert and the forest that lies beyond it, till at length we 
reached this secret place and stayed here, for, though we 
were unharmed, danger, toil, and hunger had worn us out, 
moreover we were afraid to venture among the white peo- 
ple. Brethren, there is no need to tell the rest of the tale, 
for it is known to you. That power which sent me on my 
mission has guided me through all its troubles, and after 
much hardship and suffering has caused me to triumph, 
seeing that to-night we are still alive, having found that 
which we came forth to seek. Such is my story, brother ; 
now, if it pleases you, let us hear yours, and learn what 
purpose led you and your companion here in time to save 
us from the grip of that white devil who lies dead upon 
the stairway." 

Then I spoke, telling to Zibalbay and his daughter 
the story of my life, whereof I have written already, and 
of my great scheme to build up again that empire which 
fell in the day of Montezuma. 

" Now you speak words that are after my own heart/' 
said the old chief ; "but tell me, how is it to be done ?" 

"By your help/' I answered. "Men are here in plenty, 
but to use them I must have gold, whereas yonder it seems 
you have gold and no men. Therefore I ask of you some 
portion of your useless wealth that by its help I may lift 
up your people and my own." 

" Follow me to the city, and if I can bring it about you 
shall have all that you desire," he answered. " Brother, 
our ends are one, and fate has brought us together from 
far away, in order that they may be accomplished. The 
prophecy is true, and truly have I dreamed ; soon shall 
the severed symbol be brought together in the Sanctuary 
and the will of Heaven be made clear. Oh ! not in vain 
have I lived and prayed, enduring the mockery of men, for 
Day and Night have met, and already the light of the new 



ZIBALBAY TELLS HIS MISSION 153 

dawn is shining in the sky. Place your hand in mine, and 
let us swear an oath upon the Heart that we, its guardians, 
will be true to each other and to our purpose until death 
chooses us. So, it is sworn. Now, daughter, lead me to 
my rest, for I am overwhelmed, not with toil and suffer- 
ing, but with too much joy. Heart of Heaven, I thank 
thee ! " and lifting his hands above his head, as though in 
adoration, Zibalbay turned, and, followed by the girl, Maya, 
he tottered rather than walked into the chamber. 

When he had gone the senor spoke to me. 

" This is very well, Ignatio," he said, " and most inter- 
esting, but just now, as I may remind you, there are things 
more pressing than the regeneration of the Indian race ; 
for instance, our own safety. To-morrow, at the latest, 
men will come to seek these villains who lie yonder, and if 
we are found here it seems likely that we shall be shot 
down as murderers. Say, then, what do you propose to 
do?" 

"I propose, senor, that at the first light of dawn we 
should take the mules and ride away. The forest is dense, 
and it will be difficult to find us in it, moreover two days' 
journey will place us beyond the reach of white men. Tell 
me, Lady," I added to Maya, who had returned from the 
chamber, '' do you know the road ? " 

"I know the road," she answered, "but, sirs, before 
you take it, it is right that I should tell you something, 
seeing that not to do so would be to make an ill return for 
all the nobleness which you have shown towards my father 
and myself, saving us from death and shame. You have 
heard rny father's words, and they are true, every one of 
them, but they are not all the truth. He rules that city of 
which he has spoken to you, but the nobles there are weary 
of his rule, which at times is somewhat harsh ; also they 
deem him mad. It was for this reason that they suffered 
him to wander forth, seeking the fulfilment of a prophecy 
in which none of them have faith, for they were certain 



154 HEART OF THE WORLD 

that he would perish in the wilderness and return no more 
to trouble them." 

" Then why did they allow you, who are his heiress, to 
accompany him, Lady ? " 

" Because I would have it so. I love my father, and if 
he was doomed to die because of his folly, it was my wish 
to die with him. Moreover, if you would know the truth, 
I hate that city where I was born, and the man in it to 
whom I am destined to be married, and desired to escape 
from it if only for a while." 

" And does that man hate you, Lady ? " 

"No," she answered, turning her head aside; "but if 
he loves me, I believe that he loves power more. Had I 
stayed, although I am a woman, my father must have ap- 
pointed me to rule in his place, and Tikal, my cousin, 
would have been next the throne, not on it ; therefore it 
was that he consented to my going, or at the least I think 
so. Sirs, I learn now that you are to accompany us to the 
City of the Heart, should we live to reach it, and for my 
part I rejoice at this, though I should be glad if our faces 
were set towards some other land. But I learn also that 
you have entered into a compact with my father, under 
which he is to give you the gold you need, and many great 
things are to happen, having for their end the setting up 
of the Indian people above the white men, and the raising 
of the City of the Heart to the place and power that she 
has lost, which according to the prophecy shall come about 
after the two halves of the broken symbol are set once 
more in the place that is prepared for them." 

" Do you not believe, then, in the prophecy ? " asked the 
senor quickly. 

" I did not say so," she answered. " Certainly it is 
strange that by following a dream my father should have 
found that which he sought so eagerly, the trinket that 
your companion bears upon his breast. And yet I will say 
this ; that I have no great faith in priests and visions and 



ZIBALBAY TELLS HIS MISSION 155 

gods, for of these it seems there have been many/' and 
she glanced at the walls of the temple, that were sculptured 
over with the demons which our forefathers worshipped, 
then added, "indeed, if I understand aright, you, sirs, 
follow a faith that is unknown to us." 

" We follow the true faith/' I answered, " all the rest 
are false." 

"It may be so," she said, "but I know not how this 
saying will sound in the ears of the servants of the Heart of 
Heaven. Come if you will, but be warned ; my people are 
a jealous people, and the name of a stranger is hateful to 
them. Few such have ever reached the City of the Heart 
for many generations, and of those, save for one or two, 
none have escaped from it alive. They do not desire new 
things, they have little knowledge of the world beyond 
their walls, and seek for none ; they wish to live as their 
forefathers lived, careless of a future which they will never 
see, and I think that it must go very ill with any who come 
among them bringing new faiths and doctrines, seeking to 
take power from their hands arid to awake them from their 
narrow sloth. Now, sirs, choose whether you will accom- 
pany us in our march towards the City of Waters, or 
whether you will set your face to the sea again and forget 
that you chanced to hear a certain story from a wandering 
doctor, whose misfortunes had made him mad, and an In- 
dian girl who tended him." 

Now I listened to these words which the Lady Maya spoke 
very earnestly and with power, and understood that they 
meant much ; they meant that in going to the City of the 
Heart we were, as she believed, going to our doom. 

"Lady," I said, "it may well chance that Death waits 
me yonder* but I have looked too often in his eyes of late 
to shun them now. Death is everywhere, lady, and, did 
men stop to let him pass, little work would be done in the 
world. I have my task to do, or to attempt, and it seems 
that it lies yonder in the Secret City, therefore thither I 



HEART OF THE WORLD 

shall go if my strength does not fail me and fate will 
suffer it. Come what may, I travel with your father 
towards the City of the Heart. For the seflor here it is 
different. Weeks ago I told him that no good could come 
to him from this journey, and what I said then I say now. 
He has heard your words, and if he will hearken to them 
and to mine, he will bid us farewell to-morrow, and go his 
ways, leaving us to go ours." 

She listened, and, turning towards him, said, " You 
hear. What say you, White Man ? " and it seemed to me, 
who was watching her, that she awaited his answer anx- 
iously. 

"Yes, Lady, I hear," he replied, with a laugh, "and 
doubtless it is all true enough, and I shall leave my bones 
yonder among your countrymen. Well, so be it, I have 
determined to go, not in order to regenerate the race of In- 
dians or any other race, but that I may see this city ; and 
go I will, since, other things apart, I am too idle to change 
my mind. Also it seems to me that after this day's busi- 
ness there is more danger in staying here than in pushing 
forward." 

" I am glad that you are going, since you go of your 
own free will," she said, smiling. " May our fears be con- 
founded, and your journey and ours prove prosperous. 
And now let us rest, for you must be very weary, as I am, 
and we should be stirring before the dawn." 

Next morning, at the first break of light, we started 
upon our journey, riding on three of the mules that we 
had captured, and leading the fourth laden with our goods 
and water-skins. Very glad were all of us to see the last 
of that ruined temple, and yet it was sad to me to leave it, 
for there, hidden beneath some of the masses of the fallen 
masonry, lay all that was left of my friend and foster- 
brother, Molas, he whose bravery and wit had saved our 
lives at the cost of his own. 



ZIBALBAY TELLS HIS MISSION 157 

Our plan was to avoid villages where we might be seen 
by men, and to keep ourselves hidden in the forest, for we 
feared lest we should be followed and brought to judgment 
because of the death of Don Pedro and his companions. 
This, as it chanced, we were able to do, since, having guns 
and amm mition in plenty, we shot birds and deer for our 
daily food. Travelling thus on mule-back, soon our 
strength returned to us, even to the old man Zibalbay, who 
had suffered the most from fatigue and from ill-treatment 
at the hands of the Mexicans. 

In something less than a week we had passed through 
the inhabited districts of Yucatan and far out of reach of 
the white man, and now were journeying through the for- 
est towards the great sierra that lies beyond it. To find a 
way in this thick and almost endless forest appeared im- 
possible ; indeed, it would have been so but for the knowl- 
edge that Zibalbay and his daughter had gathered on their 
path seaward, and for an ancient map which they brought 
with them. On this map were traced the lines of the roads 
that in the days of Indian civilisation pierced the country in 
every direction. One of these roads, the largest, ran from 
the mountain range which surrounds the lake of the City of 
the Heart, straight across sierras and through woodlands 
to the ruined town of Palenque, and thence to the coast. 
This road, or rather causeway, was in many places utterly 
overgrown by trees, and in others sunk in swamps or hid- 
den by the dust and sand of the sierras. Sometimes for 
two or three days' journey there was nothing to show us 
that it had ever existed, still, by following the line traced 
upon the map, and from time to time taking our position 
by the ruins of cities marked thereon, we never failed to 
find it again. 

The number of these old cities and temples was wonder- 
ful, and astonished the seftor beyond measure, which is not 
strange, seeing that he was the first white man who had 
ever looked upon them. Often, as we rode, he would talk 



158 HEART OF THE WORLD 

to me about them, and strive to paint in words a picture of 
this country, now but desert plains or tangled bush, as it 
must have been five hundred years or more before our day, 
when cities and villages, palaces and temples, crowded with 
tens of thousands of inhabitants, were to be seen every- 
where, and the fertile face of the earth was hidden in the 
green of crops. What histories lay buried in those jungles, 
and what scenes must have been enacted on the crumbling 
pyramids which confronted us day by day, before the 
sword of the conqueror or the breath of pestilence, or both, 
made the land desolate. Then it would have been a sight 
worth seeing ; and our hearts beat at the thought that if 
things went well with us it might be our fortune to witness 
that sight ; that our eyes might behold the greatest of 
these cities, sought for many generations but as yet un- 
found, the very navel of this ancient and mysterious civili- 
sation, dying indeed, but still existent. 

I had other hopes to draw me onward, but, as I believe, 
it was this desire that sustained the senor in many a diffi- 
culty and danger of our march. It was with him while 
he was hacking a mule-path through the scrub with his 
machete, when we toiled along hour after hour beneath the 
burning sun, and even at night as he lay over-tired and 
sleepless, tormented by insects, and aching with fever. 
Filled with this thought he was never weary of questioning 
the silent Zibalbay as to the history, or rather the legend, of 
the land through which we journeyed, or of listening to 
the Lady Maya's descriptions of the City of the Heart, till 
even she grew tired, and begged him to speak, instead, of the 
country across the water where he was born, of its ceaseless 
busy life, and the wonders of civilisation. Strange as it 
may seem, I, who watched them both from day to day, 
know it to be true that she was in mind the more modern 
of the two, so much so, indeed, that, in listening to their 
talk, I might have fancied that Maya was the child of the 
New World, filled with the spirit of to-day, and he the 



ZIBALBAY TELLS HIS MISSION 159 

heir of a proud and secret race dying beneath its weight of 
years. 

" I cannot understand you," she would say to him ; ' ' why 
o you so love histories and ruins and stories of people that 
have long been dead ? I hate them. Once they lived, 
and doubtless were well enough in their place and time, 
but now they are past and done with, and it is we who live, 
live, live ! " and she stretched out her arms as though she 
would clasp the sunshine to her breast. 

"I tell you," she went on, " that this home of mine, of 
which you are so fond of talking, is nothing but a great 
burying-place, and those who dwell in it are like ghosts 
who wander to and fro thinking of the things that they 
did, or did not do, a thousand years before. It was their 
ancestors who did the things, not they, for they do nothing 
except plot against each other, eat, sleep, drink, and mum- 
ble prayers to a god in whom they do not believe. Did my 
father but know it, he wastes time and trouble in making 
plans for the redemption of the People of the Heart, who 
think him mad for his pains. They cannot be redeemed. 
Were it otherwise, do you suppose that they would have 
been content to sit still all these hundreds of years, know- 
ing nothing of the great world outside of them, and day by 
day watching their numbers dwindle, till life but flickers 
in the race as in a dying lamp ? So it is also, if in a less 
degree, with those Indians whom Don Ignatio here seeks 
to lift out of the mire into which the Spaniards trod them. 
Sirs, I believe that our blood has had its day. There is no 
more growth in us, we are corn ripe for the sickle of 
Death, that is, most of us are. Therefore, if I could have 
my will, while I am still young I would turn my back upon 
this city which you so desire to see, taking with me the 
wealth that is useless there, but which, it seems, would 
bring me many good things in other lands, and live out my 
time among people who have a present and a future as well 
as a past." 



l6o HEART OF THE WORLD 

Then the seftor would laugh, and argue that the past is 
more than the present, and that it is better to be dead than 
alive, and many other such follies ; and I would grow angry 
and reprove Maya for her words, which shocked me, where- 
at she would yawn, and talk of something else, for I and 
my discourses wearied her. Only Zibalbay took no heed, 
for his mind was set upon other things, even if he heard 
us, which I doubt. 

But all this while, notwithstanding her light talk and care- 
less manner, the Lady Maya was learning yes, even from 
me when the sefior was not at hand, for she would inquire 
into everything and forget nothing that she heard. The 
history of the countries of the world, their modes of gov- 
ernment and religions, the manners, customs, and appear- 
ance of their inhabitants, he told her of them all from 
day to day. Nor did she weary of listening, till at length 
the seflor met with an adventure that went near to separat- 
ing him from her for ever, and showed me, although I had 
no great love for her or any of her sex, that, whatever might 
be her faults, this woman's heart was true and bold. 



CHAPTEE XII 

MAYA DESCENDS THE CUEVA 

evening it was after we had left the forest country, 
and with much toil climbed the sierra till we reached the 
desert beyond, a desert that seemed to be boundless we set 
our camp amongst a clump of great aloes that grew at the 
foot of a stony hill. This hill was marked on Zibalbay's 
map as being the site of an underground reservo'r, known 
as a cueva, whence in the old days, when this place was in- 
habited, the Indians drew their supply of water in the dry 



MAYA DESCENDS THE CUEVA l6l 

season from deep down in the bowels of the earth. That 
this particular cueva existed was proved by the fact that 
the ancient road, which here was plainly visible, ran 
through the ruins of a large town whereof the population 
must once have been supplied by it ; but when Zibalbay 
and his daughter slept at the spot on their downward jour- 
ney, they were spared the necessity of looking for it by the 
discovery of a rain-pool in the hollow of a rock. Now, 
however, no rain having fallen for weeks, after we had 
eaten, and drunk such water as remained in the water- 
skins, we determined to seek for the cueva in order to re- 
fill the skins and give drink to the thirsty mules. 

Accordingly we began to examine the rocky hill, and 
presently found a stone archway, now nearly filled up with 
soil and half hidden by thorn bushes, which from its ap- 
pearance and position we judged to be the entrance to the 
cueva. Having provided ourselves with an armful of 
torches made from the dead stems of a variety of aloe that 
grew around in plenty, we lit four of them, and I led the 
way through the hole to find myself in a cave where a great 
and mysterious wind blew and sighed in sudden gusts that 
almost extinguished our lights. Following this cave we 
came to a pit or shaft at the end of it, which evidently led 
to the springs of water. This shaft, of unknown depth, 
was almost if not quite as smooth and perpendicular as 
though it had been hollowed by the hand of man, but the 
strangest thing about it was the terrible stairway that the 
ancients had used to approach the water, consisting, as it 
did, of a double row of notches eight or ten inches deep, cut 
in the surface of the shaft. Up and dovn these notches 
the water-carriers must have passed for generations, for 
they were much worn, and a groove made by the feet of 
men ran to the top of this awful ladder. The seflor, find- 
ing a fragment of rock, let it fall over the edge of the pit, 
and several seconds passed before a faint sound told us that 
it had touched the bottom. 



1 62 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" What a dreadful place ! " he said. " I think that I 
had rather die of thirst than attempt to go down it." 

" Still people have gone down in the past," answered 
Maya, " for look, this is where they stepped off the edge." 

" Perhaps they had a rope to hold by, lady," I suggested. 
" When I was a young man I have descended mines almost 
as steep, with no other ladder than one made of tree-trunks 
monkey-poles they are called notched after this fashion, 
and set from side to side of the shaft, but now it would be my 
death to try, for such heights make me dizzy." 

" Come away," said Zibalbay ; "none of us here could 
take that road and live. The mules must go thirsty ; five 
hours' journey away there is a pool where they can drink 
to-morrow." 

Then we turned and left this cave of the winds and were 
glad to be outside of it, for the place had an unholy look, 
and, all the draught notwithstanding, was hot to suffoca- 
tion. 

Zibalbay walked to the camp, but we stayed to pluck 
some forage for the mules. Soon the others grew weary 
of this task and fell to talking as they watched the sunset, 
which was very beautiful on these lonely plains. Present- 
ly I heard the Lady Maya say : 

" Pick me that flower, friend, to wear upon my breast," 
and she pointed to a snow-white cactus-bloom that grew 
amongst some rocks. 

The senor climbed to the place and stretched out his 
hand to cut the flower, when of a sudden I heard him utter 
an exclamation and saw him start. 

"What is it ?" I said, "have you pricked yourself or 
cut your hand ? " He made no answer, but his eyes grew 
wide with horror, and he pointed at something grey that 
was gliding away among the stones, and as he pointed I 
saw a spot of blood appear upon his wrist. Maya saw it 
also. 

"A snake has bitten vou ! " she cried in a voice of 



MAYA DESCENDS THE CUEVA 163 

agony, and, springing at him before I guessed what she was 
about to do, she seized his arm with both hands cind set her 
lips to the wound. 

He tried to wrench it free, but she clung to him fiercely, 
then, calling to me to bring a stick, she tore a strip off her 
robe and made it fast round his wrist above the puncture. 
By now I was there with the stick, and, setting it in the 
loop of linen, I twisted it till the hand turned blue from 
the pressure. 

"What snake was it?" I asked. 

" The deadly grey sort," he answered, adding : " Don't 
look so frightened, Maya, I know a cure. Come to the 
camp, quick ! " 

In two minutes we reached it, and the senor had 
snatched a sharp knife and a powder-flask. 

" Now, friend," he said, handing me the knife, " cut 
deep, since it is life or death for me and there are no ar- 
teries in the top of the wrist." 

Seeing what had come about, Zibalbay held the senor's 
hand and I cut twice. He never winced, but at each 
slash Maya groaned. Then, having let the blood fall till it 
would run no more, we poured powder into the wound, as 
much as will lie on a twenty cent piece, and fired it. It 
went off in a puff of white smoke, leaving the flesh beneath 
black and charred. 

" Now, as we have no brandy, there is nothing more to 
be done except to wait," said the senor, with an attempt at 
a smile ; .but Zibalbay, going to a bag, produced from it 
some cuca paste. 

"Eat this," he said, " it is better than any fire-water." 

The senor took the stuff and began to swallow it, till 
presently I saw that he could force no more down, for a 
paralysis seemed to be creeping over him ; his throat con- 
tracted, and his eyelids fell as though weighed upon by 
irresistible sleep. Now, notwithstanding our remedies, seeing 
that the poison had got hold of him, we seized him 



1 64 HEART OF THE WORLD 

by the arms and began to walk him to and fro, encourag- 
ing him at the same time to keep a brave heart and fight 
against death. 

11 1 am doing my best/' he answered feebly ; then his 
mind began to wander, and at length he fell down and his 
eyes shut. 

A great fear and horror seized me, for I thought that he 
was about to die, and with them a kind of rage because 
I was impotent to save him. Already, to tell the truth, I 
was jealous of the Lady Maya, and now my jealousy broke 
out in bitter and unjust words. 

" This is your fault," I said. 

" You are cruel," she answered, " and you speak thus 
because you hate me." 

" Perhaps I am cruel, lady. Would not you be cruel if 
you saw the friend you love perishing through a woman's 
folly ? " 

" Are you the only one that can love ?" she whispered. 

" Unless we can rouse him the white man will die," said 
Zibalbay. 

" Oh ! awake," cried Maya despairingly, placing her lips 
close to the senor's ear. " They say that I have killed you, 
awake, awake ! " 

He seemed to hear her, for, though his eyes did not 
open, he smiled faintly and murmured, "I will try." 
Then with our help he struggled from the ground and 
began to walk once more, but like a man who is drunk. 
Thrice he staggered backwards and forwards along the path 
our feet had worn. Then he fell again, and, putting our 
hands upon his breast, we could feel the contractions of 
his heart growing weaker every moment, till at last they 
seemed to die away. But of a sudden, when we had al- 
ready abandoned hope, it pulsed violently, and from every 
pore of his skin, which till now had been parched and dry, 
there burst so profuse a perspiration that in the light of 
the rising moon we could see it running down his face. 



MAYA DESCENDS THE CUEVA 165 

" I think that the white man will live now ; he has con- 
quered the poison," said Zibalbay quietly, and hearing his 
words I returned thanks to God in my heart. 

Then we laid him in a hammock, piling blankets and 
scrapes over him till at length the perspiration ceased, all 
the fluid in his body having evaporated, taking the venom 
with it. 

For an hour or more he slept, then awoke and asked for 
water in a faint voice. We, who were watching, looked at 
each other in dismay, for we had not a single drop to give, 
and this we were obliged to tell him. He groaned and was 
silent for a while, then said : 

" It would have been kinder to let me die of the poison, 
for this torment of thirst is more than I can bear." 

" Can we try the cueva 9 " faltered Maya. 

" It is impossible," answered her father. "AVe should 
all be killed." 

"Yes, yes," repeated the seiior, "it is impossible. 
Better that one should die than four." 

" Father," said Maya, " you must take the best mule 
and ride forward to the pool where we should camp to-mor- 
row. The moon shines, and with good fortune you may be 
back in eight or nine hours." 

" It is useless," murmured the seflor, " I can never live 
so long without drink, my throat is hot like a coal." 

Zibalbay shrugged his shoulders, he also thought that it 
was useless, but his daughter turned upon him fiercely and 
said : 

"Are you going, or shall I ride myself ?" 

Then he went, muttering in his beard, and in a few 
minutes we heard the footsteps of the mule as it shambled 
forward into the desert. 

" Fear not," I said to the sefior, " it is the poison that 
has dried you up, but thirst will not kill you so soon, and 
presently you will feel it less. Oh ! that we had medicine 
here to make you sleep ! " 

N 



1 66 HEART OF THE WORLD 

He lay qniet for a space, giving no answer, but from the 
workings of his hands and face we could see that he suf- 
fered much. 

"Maya/* he said at length, "can you find me a cool 
stone to put in my mouth ? " 

She searched and found a pebble which he sucked, but 
after a time it fell from his lips, and we saw that it was 
as dry as when it entered them. Then of a sudden his 
brain gave way, and he began to rave huskily in many 
languages. 

" Are you devils," he asked, "that you suffer me to die 
in torment for the want of a drink of water ? Why do 
you stand there and mock me ? Oh ! have pity and give 
me water." 

For a while we bore it, though perhaps our agonies were 
greater than his own then Maya rose and looked at his 
face. It was sunken as with a heavy illness, thick black 
rings had appeared beneath his blue eyes, and his lips were 
necked with blood. 

" I can endure this no more," she said, in a dry voice ; 
" watch your friend, Don Ignatio." 

" You are right," I answered, " this is no place for a 
woman. Go and sleep yonder, so that I can wake you if 
there is need." 

She looked at me reproachfully, but went without an- 
swering, and sat down behind a bush about thirty yards 
away. Here it seems for all this story she told me after- 
wards, and for the most part I do but repeat her words 
she began to think. She was sure that without water the 
sefior could not live through the night, and it was impos- 
sible that her father should return before dawn at the ear- 
liest. He was dying, and she felt as though her life were 
ebbing with his own, for now she knew that she loved him. 
Unless something could be done he must soon be dead, and 
her heart would be broken. Only one thing could save 
him and her, water. In the depths of yonder hill, with- 



MAYA DESCENDS THE CUEVA 1 67 

in a few paces of her, doubtless it lay in plenty, but who 
would venture to seek it there ? And yet the descent of 
the cueva must be possible, since the ancients used it daily, 
and why could she not do what they had done ? She was 
young and active, and from childhood it had been a delight 
to her to climb in dangerous places about the walls and 
pyramids of the City of the Heart, nor had her head failed 
her however lofty they might chance to be. Why, then, 
should it fail her now when the life of the man she loved 
was at stake ? And what would it matter if it did fail 
her, seeing that if he died she wished to die also ? 

Yes, she would try it ! 

When once she had made up her mind Maya set about 
the task swiftly. I was standing by the hammock praying 
to heaven to spare the life of my friend, who lay there 
beating his hands to and fro and moaning in misery, when 
I saw her creep up and look at him. 

"You think you love him," she said to me suddenly, 
" but I tell you that you do not know what love is. If I 
live, I, whom you despise, will teach you, Don Ignatio." 

I took no heed of her words, for I thought them foolish. 

Then, unseen by me, Maya glided away to where the 
mules were picketed and provided herself with flint, steel, 
tinder, a rope, and a small water-skin of untanned hide, 
which she strapped upon her shoulders. In another min- 
ute she was running across the desert like a deer. At the 
entrance to the cueva she paused to gather up the aloe 
torches which had been thrown down there, and also to 
look for one moment at the familiar face of night, the night 
that she might never see again. Then she lit a torch and 
crept through the narrow opening. 

The place had been awful in the evening when she vis- 
ited it in the company of the rest of us. Now, alone and 
at night, it appalled her. Great winds roared round its vast 
recesses, sucked thither from the hollows of the earth, and 
in them could be heard sounds like to those of human 



1 68 HEART OF THE WORLD 

voices, sobbing and making moan. Maya shivered, for she 
thought that these were the ghosts of dead antiguos be- 
wailing their eternal griefs in this unearthly place, but she 
pressed forward boldly, notwithstanding her fears, till she 
stood on the brink of the pit. Here she halted to strip 
herself so that there might be as little as possible to im- 
pede her movements in climbing the stair, and twisted her 
hair into a knot. Next she tied the cord about her middle, 
and the water-skin, to which she fastened the flint and 
steel, upon her shoulders. Lighting two of the largest 
torches she fixed them slantingwise in crevices of the rock, 
so that their flame shone over the mouth of the shaft, 
down which she threw, first, a bundle of unlit torches, 
and, lastly, one on fire. This torch did not go out, as she 
half expected that it would, for presently, looking down 
the pit, she saw a spark of light shining a hundred and 
fifty feet or more beneath her. 

Now all her preparations were complete, and nothing 
remained to be done except to descend and search for the 
water. For a moment Maya hesitated, looking at the 
spark of fire that gleamed so far below, and at the narrow 
niches cut in the smooth surface of the rock. Then, feel- 
ing that if she stood longer thus, her terrors would master 
her, she knelt down, and, holding to the rock with her 
hands, she thrust her leg over the edge of the pit, feeling 
at its side with her foot till she found the first niche. 
Eesting her weight on this foot, she dropped the other till 
she reached the second niche, which was about eighteen 
inches lower and ten inches to the left of the first, for these 
niches were cut in a zig-zag fashion, No. 1 being above 
No. 3, No. 2 above No. 4 and so on. Now she must face 
one of the most terrible risks of the descent, for it was im- 
possible for her to reach No. 3 niche without leaving go of 
the edge of the pit, nor could she get a hold of No. 1 with 
her hand until her foot was in No. 4, so that there was no 
alternative except to balance herself on one leg, and, plac- 



MAYA DESCENDS THE CUEVA 169 

ing her palms against the smooth rock, slide them down it 
till her foot rested on No. 4, and her fingers in No. 1. 

Clinging thus like a fly to the rock, she stepped into 
No. 3, and, not daring to pause, began at once to feel for 
No. 4. In her anxiety she dropped her leg too low, and 
while drawing it back almost overbalanced herself. A 
thrill of horrible fear struck her, causing her spine to 
creep, but, resting her face against the rock, by a despe- 
rate effort she retained her presence of mind, and in an- 
other second was standing in No. 4 and holding to No. 1. 
Thenceforward the descent was easier, since all she had to 
do was to shift the grip of her hands from hole to hole 
and remember in which line she must search with her foot 
for the succeeding niche. So far from hindering her, the 
darkness proved a boon, since it prevented her from be- 
holding the horror of the place. 

By the time that she was a third of the way down the 
shaft her courage returned to her, and the only fear she 
felt was lest some of the niches should be broken. For- 
tunately this was not the case, although one of them was so 
much worn that her toes slipped out of it and for a second 
or two she hung by her hands. Eecovering herself, she 
went on from step to step till at length she stood at the 
bottom of the shaft. 

After a minute's, pause to get her breath, Maya found 
one of the dry aloe stems, and lit it at the embers of the 
torch which she had thrown down the pit. Then she 
looked round her, to find herself in a large natural cavern 
of no great height, which sloped gently downwards further 
than she could see. Turning her eyes to the floor, she 
searched for and discovered the path that had been hollowed 
out by the feet of the ancients, but now was half hidden 
in sand and dust. It ran straight down the cave, and she 
followed it for fifty paces or* more, holding the light in one 
hand, and some spare torches under her arm. Here in 
this cave the atmosphere was so hot and still, that she was 



170 HEART OF THE WORLD 

scarcely able to breathe, though even at a distance she 
could hear a strange eddying wind roaring in the shaft 
down which she had come. Presently the cavern began to 
decrease in size till it narrowed into a small passage, and 
Maya sighed aloud, fearing lest she should be coming to 
the mouth of a second shaft, for she had heard me say that 
the water in these cuevas was sometimes found at a depth 
of five or six hundred feet, whereas she had not descended 
more than two hundred. 

When she had walked another ten or fifteen paces, how- 
ever, the passage took a sudden turn and her doubts were 
set at rest, for there in the centre of a wonderful place, 
such as she had never seen before, gleamed the water which 
she had risked her life to reach. 

How large the place Avhere she found herself might be 
Maya never knew, since the feeble light of her torch did 
not pierce far into the gloom. All that she could see was 
a number of white columns without doubt stalactites, 
though she imagined them to have been fashioned by man 
rising from the floor of the cavern to its roof, and in the 
midst of them a circular pit, thirty feet or more across, in 
which lay the water. This water, though clear as crystal, 
was not still, for once in every few seconds a great bubble 
three or four feet in diameter rose in the centre of the 
pool, to burst on its surface and send a ring of ripples to 
the rocky sides. So beautiful was this bubble and so regu- 
lar its appearance that for some minutes Maya watched it ; 
then, remembering that she had no time to spare, she set 
herself to get the water, only to learn that she was con- 
fronted by a new difficulty and one which but for her fore- 
sight might have proved insuperable. The rock bank of 
the pool was so smooth, and sloped so steeply to the water, 
that it was quite impossible for anyone to keep a footing 
on it. The ancients had overcome the trouble by means of 
a wooden staircase, as was evident from the places hollowed 
in the rock to receive the uprights, but this structure had 



MAYA DESCENDS THE CUEVA I? I 

long since rotted away. At the head of where this stair- 
case had stood, a hole was bored in the rock, doubtless to 
receive a rope by which the water-bearers supported them- 
selves while they filled their jars, and the sight of this hole 
gave Maya a thought. Untying the cord which she had 
brought with her, she made it fast through the hole, and, 
having fixed the torch into one of the spaces hollowed to 
hold the timbers of the stairway, she slid down the bank 
till she stood breast high in the water. 

For a minute or more she remained thus, drinking her 
fill and enjoying the coolness of her bath, which was pleas- 
ant after the stupefying heat of the caves, then, first hav- 
ing taken care to remove the tinder that was tied to it, she 
slipped the water-skin from her shoulder, washed it out, 
filled and replaced it. Next, she dragged herself up the 
bank, and by the light of a new torch started for the foot 
of the shaft. 

Here Maya rested awhile, gathering up her energies, then, 
feeling that once more she began to grow afraid, she com- 
menced the ascent. There were a hundred and one of the 
notches, for she had counted them as she came down, and 
now again she began to count, so that she might know her 
exact position in the shaft, of which she could see nothing 
because of the intense darkness. Before she had ascended 
fifty steps she was dismayed to find a feeling of weariness 
taking possession of her, which forced her to pause awhile 
hanging to the face of the pit. Then she went on again 
and with great efforts reached the seventy-fifth step, where 
once more she was obliged to hang, gaining breath, till a 
pain in her right leg, upon which most of her weight 
rested, warned her that she must stay no longer. For the 
third time she struggled upwards, desperately and despair- 
ingly dragging her feet from niche to niche. Her breath 
came in gasps, the straps of the heavy water-skin cut into 
her tender flesh, and her brain began to reel. 

Now there were but ten more steps. It came into her 



1/2 HEART OF THE WORLD 

mind that she might save herself by loosing the burden of 
water from her shoulders, to fall to the bottom of the pit, 
but this she would not do. Now only three niches re- 
mained and the goal would be won, but now also her brain 
was giving. Darker and more bewildered it grew, yet by 
a desperate effort she kept some fragment of her sense. 
Her foot was in the topmost hole, her body was balanced 
upon the edge of the pit, and, pulled down by the choking 
weight of the water, she was like to fall backwards. Then 
it seemed that a voice called her, and for the last time she 
struggled, writhing forward as does a wounded snake, till 
darkness closed in upon her mind. 

When Maya recovered, a while later, she found that she 
was lying on the edge of the shaft, over which her feet 
still hung. Instantly she remembered all, and, with a 
little scream of terror, drew herself along the floor. Then 
with difficulty, for she was still breathless, and her mus- 
cles seemed to have no strength, she rose to her feet, and 
having felt for and picked up her linen robe, she crept 
towards the spot of light which marked the entrance to 
the cave. Presently she was through it, and with a sigh 
of thankfulness sank to the earth and put on her garment, 
then, rising, she walked slowly towards the camp, bearing 
the precious water with her. 

Meanwhile, knowing nothing of all this, I, Ignatio, also 
had been thinking. I remembered how, when I lay crushed 
beneath the rock, the senor had ventured his life to save 
me. Should I not then venture mine to save his ? It 
seemed so. Without water he would certainly die, and 
greatly as I dreaded to attempt the descent of the cueva, 
yet it must be done. Leaving the hammock, I searched 
for the Lady Maya, but could not find her, so I called 
aloud, " Seflora, seflora. Where are you, senora ? " 
" Here/' she answered. " What is it ? Is he dead ?" 
"No," I said, " but I am sure that unless he has water 



MAYA DESCENDS THE CUEVA 1/3 

he will die within little more than an hour. Therefore I 
have made up my mind to try to descend the cueva. "Will 
you be so good as to watch the seftor till I return, and if I 
return no more, as is probable, to tell your father what has 
happened. He will find the talisman of the Broken Heart 
lying with my clothes at the mouth of the pit. I pray 
that he will take it, and I pray also that he should travel 
back to Mexico, bearing with him some of the wealth of 
his city, there to continue the great work that I have 
begun, of which I have spoken to him. Farewell, seflora." 

" Stop, Don Ignatio," said Maya in a hoarse voice, 
" there is no need for you to descend the cueva." 

" "Why not, Lady ? I should be glad to escape the task, 
but this is a question of life or death." 

"Yes," she answered, "and because it is a question of 
life or death, Don Ignatio, I have already climbed that 
hideous place, and here 'is the water," and she fell for- 
ward and swooned upon the ground. 

I said nothing. I was too much amazed, and, indeed, 
too much ashamed, to speak. Lifting Maya's senseless 
form, I placed her in a hammock that was slung close by. 
Then I took the water-skin and a leather cup, and ran 
with it to my friend's side. By now the sefior was lost in 
a coma and lay still, only moaning from time to time. 
Undoing the mouth of the skin, I poured out a cupful of 
water, with which I began to sprinkle his brow and to 
moisten his cracked lips. At the touch and smell of the 
fluid a change came over the face of the dying man, the 
empty look left it, and the eyes opened. 

"That was water," he muttered, "I can taste it." 
Then he saw the cup, and the sight seemed to give him a 
sudden strength, for he stretched out his arms and, snatch- 
ing it from my hand, he drained it in three gulps. 

" More," he gasped, "more." 

But as yet I would give him no more, though he prayed 
for it piteously, and when I did allow him to drink again 



174 HEART OF THE WORLD 

it was in sips only. For an hour he sipped thus till at 
length even his thirst was partially satisfied, and the 
shrunken cheeks began to fill out and the dull eyes to 
brighten. 

" That water has saved my life," he whispered ; ' ' where 
did it come from ? " 

" I will tell you to-morrow," I answered ; "sleep now if 
you can." 



CHAPTER XIII 

IGNATIO'S OATH 

AT sunrise on the following day I lit a fire by which to 
prepare soup for the sefior, who still slept, and as I was 
engaged thus I saw the Lady Maya walking towards me, 
and noticed that her hands and feet were swollen. 

" Senora," I said, bowing before her, " I humbly con- 
gratulate you upon your courage and your escape from 
great dangers. Last night I said words to you in my grief 
that should not have been spoken, for it is my fault that I 
am apt to be unjust to women. I crave your pardon, and 
I will add that if, in atonement for my past injustice, I can 
serve you in any way now and afterwards, I pray you to 
command me." 

She listened and answered : 

" I thank you for your kind words, Don Ignatio, and I 
forget other words that were not kind which you have 
spoken to me from time to time. If in 'truth you wish to 
show yourself my friend, it is in your power to do so. You 
have guessed my secret, therefore I am not ashamed to re- 
peat that the sefior yonder has become everything to me, 
though as yet I may be little to him. I ask you, then, to 



1C NATIONS OATH 175 

swear upon the Heart that you will do nothing to turn him 
from me, or to separate us should he ever learu to love me, 
but rather, should this come about, that whatever may be 
our need, you will help us by all means in your reach." 

" You ask me to swear a large oath, senora, and one that 
deals with the future, of which we have no knowledge," I 
answered, hesitating. 

" I do, seilor, but remember that were it not for me at 
this moment your friend, who sleeps yonder like a child, 
would be stiff in death. Eemember also that you have 
ends to gain in the City of the Heart, where it will be well 
for you to keep me as a friend should we ever live to reach 
it. Still, do not swear unless you wish, only then I shall 
know that you are my secret enemy and I shall be yours." 

" There is no need to threaten me, seilora," I answered, 
" nor am I to be moved thus, but I promise that I will not 
stand between you and the seflor. Why should I ? His 
will is his own, and, as you say, you saved his life. But 
see, he awakes, and his soup is ready." 

She took the pot off the fire, skimmed it, and poured the 
contents into a gourd. 

" Shall I take it, or will you ? " she asked. 

" I think that you had better take it," I answered. 

Then she walked to the hammock and said, " Seflor, 
here is your soup." 

He was but newly awakened, and looked at her vacantly. 

" Tell me, Maya," he asked, " what has happened ? " 

" Last evening," she began, " in picking a flower for me 
you were bitten by a snake, and very nearly died." 

" I know," he answered. " Without doubt I should 
have died had you not sucked the wound and tied a band- 
age round my wrist, for that grey snake is the deadliest in 
the country. Go on." 

" After the danger of the poison was past you became 
thirsty, so thirsty that you were dying of it, and there was 
no water to give you." 



176 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" Yes, yes/' he said, " it was agony ; I pray that I may 
never suffer so again. But I drank water and lived. 'Who 
brought it to me ? " 

" My father started on to the next camping-place, where 
there is a pool/' she answered. 

" Has he returned ? " 

" No, not yet." 

" Then he cannot have brought the water. Where did 
it come from ? " 

" It came from the cueva, that cave which we examined 
before you were bitten/' 

" Who went down the cueva to get it ? The place is 
unclimbable." 

" I went down." 

"You ! " he said, in amazement. " You ! It is not pos- 
sible. Do not jest. Tell me the truth quickly. I am tired." 

" I am not jesting. Listen, sefior. You were dying for 
want of water, dying before our eyes ; it was horrible to 
see. I could not bear it, and I knew that my father would 
not be back in time, so I took the water-skin and some 
torches and went without saying anything to Ignatio. The 
shaft was hard to climb, and the adventure strange. I will 
tell you of that by and by, but as it chanced I came through 
it safely to find Ignatio about to start on the same errand." 

The seflor heard and understood, but he made no answer ; 
he only stretched out his arms towards her, and there and 
thus in the wilderness did they plight their troth. 

" Eemember I am but an Indian girl," she murmured 
presently, "and you are one of the white lords of the 
earth. Is it well that you should love me ? " 

"It is well," he answered, "for you are the noblest 
woman that I have known, and you have saved my life." 

Zibalbay did not return till past midday, when he ap- 
peared with the water, leading the mule, which had 



IGNATIO'S OATH 177 

set its foot upon a sharp stone in the desert and gone 
lame. 

" Does he still live ? " he asked of Maya. 

"Yes, father." 

"He must be strong then/* he answered; "I thought 
that thirst would have killed him ere now." 

" He has had water, father. I descended the cueva and 
fetched it," she added, after a moment's pause. 

The old man looked at her amazed. 

" How came it that you found courage to go down that 
place, daughter ? " he asked at length. 

" The desire to save a friend gave me courage," she an- 
swered, letting her eyes fall beneath his gaze. " I knew 
that you could not be back in time, so I went." 

Zibalbay pondered awhile, then said : 

" I 'think that you would have done better to let him die, 
daughter, for I believe that this white man will bring 
trouble upon us. It has pleased the gods to preserve you 
alive ; remember, then, that your life belongs to them, and 
that you must follow the path which they have chosen, not 
that which you would choose for yourself. Kemember also 
that one waits you in the city yonder who may have a word 
to say as to your friendship with this wanderer." And he 
passed on with the mule. 

That same evening Maya told me of her father's words 
and said : 

" I think that before all is done I shall need the help 
that you have sworn to give me, seflor, for I can see well 
that my father will be against me unless my wish runs 
with his purpose. Of one thing I am sure, that my life is 
my own and not a possession of the gods ; for in such gods 
as my father worships and I was brought up to serve, I 
have lost faith, if indeed I ever had any." 

" You speak rashly," I answered, " and if you are wise 
you will not let your father hear such words." 

" Lest by and by my life should be forfeit to the gods 



I/B HEART OF THE WORLD 

whom I blaspheme ! " she broke in. " Say, then, do you 
believe in these gods, Don Ignatio ? " 

" No, Lady, I am a Christian and have no part with 
idols and those who worship them." 

" I understand ; it is only in their wealth that you would 
have part. Well, and why should I not become a Chris- 
tian also ? I have learned something of your faith from 
the sefior yonder, and see that it is great and pure, and 
full of comfort for us mortals." 

" May grace be given to you to follow in that road, Lady, 
but it is not Christian to taunt me about the wealth which 
I come to seek for the advantage of our race, seeing that 
you know I ask nothing for myself." 

" Forgive me," she answered, " my tongue is sharp as 
yours has been at times, Don Ignatio. Hark ! the seflor 
calls me." 

For two more days we rested there by the cueva till the 
seflor was fit to travel, then we started on again. Ten 
days we journeyed across the wilderness, following the line 
of the ancient road, and meeting with no traces of man 
save such as were furnished by the familiar sight of ruined 
pyramids and temples. On the eleventh we began to 
ascend the slope of a lofty range of mountains that pushed 
its flanks far out into the desert-land, and on the twelfth 
we reached the snow-line, where we were obliged to aban- 
don the three mules which remained to us, seeing that no 
green food was to be found higher up, and the path be- 
came too steep for them to find a footing on it. That 
night we slept, with little to eat, in a hole dug in the snow, 
wrapped in our scrapes, or, rather, we tried to sleep, for 
our rest was broken by the cold, and the moaning of bitter 
and mysterious winds which sprang up and passed away 
suddenly beneath a clear sky ; also, from time to time, by 
the thunder of distant avalanches rushing from the peaks 
above. 



IG NATIONS OATH 1/9 

" How far must we travel up this snow ? " I asked of 
Zibalbay, as we stood shivering in the ashy light of the 
dawn. 

" Look yonder," he answered, pointing to where the 
first ray of the sun shone upon a surface of black rock far 
above us ; " there is the highest point, and we should 
reach it before nightfall." 

Thus encouraged we pushed forward for hour after hour, 
Zibalbay marching ahead in silence, until our sight was 
bewildered with snow-blindness, and I was seized with a 
fit of mountain sickness. Fortunately the climbing was 
not difficult, so that by four in the afternoon we found 
ourselves beneath the shadow of the wall of black rock. 

" Must we scale that precipice ? " I asked of Zibalbay. 

" No," he answered, " it would not be possible without 
wings. There is a way through it. Twice in the old days 
bodies of white men searching for the Golden City to sack 
it, came to this spot, but, finding no path through the 
cliff, they went home again, though their hands were on 
the door." 

"Does the wall of rock encircle all the valley of the 
city ? " asked the sefior. 

" No, White Man, it ends many days' journey away to 
the west, but he who would travel round it must wade 
through a great swamp. Also the mountains may be 
crossed to the east by journeying for three days through 
snows and down precipices ; but so far as I have learned 
only one man lived to pass them, a wandering Indian, who 
found his way to the banks of the Holy Waters in the days 
of my grandfather. Now, stay here while I search." 

" Are you glad to see the gateway of your home, 
Maya ? " asked the sefior. 

" No," she answered, almost fiercely, " for here in the 
wilderness I have been happy, but there sorrow awaits me 
and you. Oh ! if indeed I am dear to you, let us turn even 
now and fly together back to the lands where your people 



180 HEART OF THE WORLD ' 

live/' and she clasped his hand and looked earnestly into 
his eyes. 

"What/' he answered, "and leave your father and Ig- 
natio to finish the journey by themselves ? " 

" You are more to me than my father, though perhaps 
this solemn Ignatio is more to you than I am." 

" No, Maya, but having come so far I wish to see the 
sacred city." 

" As you will," she said, letting fall his hand. " See, 
my father has found the place and calls us." 

We walked on for about a hundred paces, thread ing our path 
through piles of boulders that lay at the foot of the preci- 
pice till we came to where Zibalbay stood, leaning against 
the wall of rock in which we could see no break or opening. 

" Although I trust you, and, as I believe, Heaven has 
brought us together for its own purposes," said the old 
cacique, " yet I must follow the ancient custom and obey 
my oath to suffer no stranger to see the entrance to this 
mountain gate. Come hither, daughter, and blindfold 
these foreigners." 

She obeyed, and as she tied the handkerchief about the 
sefior's face I heard her whisper, 

" Fear not, I will be your eyes." 

Then we were taken by the hand, and led this way and 
that till we were confused. After we had walked some 
paces, we were halted and left while, as we judged from the 
sounds, our guides moved something heavy. Next we 
were conducted down a steep incline, through a passage so 
narrow and low that our shoulders rubbed the sides of it, 
and in parts we were obliged to bend our heads. At length, 
after taking many sharp turns, the passage grew wider and 
the path smooth and level. 

" Loose the bandages," said the voice of Zibalbay. 

Maya did so, and, when our eyes were accustomed to the 
light, we looked round us curiously to find that we stood at 
the bottom of a deep cleft or volcanic rift in the rock, made 



1G NATIONS OATH l8l 

hot by the hand of man but by that of Nature working 
with her tools of fire and water. This cleft along which 
ran a road so solidly built and drained that, save here and 
there where snowdrifts blocked it, it was still easily pass- 
able after centuries of disuse did not measure more than 
forty paces from wall to wall. On either side of it towered 
sheer black cliffs, honeycombed with doorways that could 
only have been reached by ladders. 

" What are those ? " I asked of Zibalbay. " Burying- 
places ?" 

" No," he answered, " dwelling-houses. They were 
there, so say the records, before our forefathers founded 
the City of the Heart, and in them dwelt cave-men, barba- 
rians who fed on little and did not feel the cold. It was by 
following some of these cave-men through that passage 
which we have passed that the founder of the ancient city 
discovered this cleft and the good country and great lake 
that lie beyond it, where the rock-dwellers, whom our fore- 
fathers killed out, used to live in the winter season. Once, 
when I was young, with some companions I entered these 
caves by means of ropes and ladders, and found many 
strange things there, such as stone axes and rude ornaments 
of gold, relics of the barbarians. But let us press on, or 
night will overtake us in the pass." 

By degrees the great cleft, that had widened as we walked, 
began to narrow again till it appeared to end in a second 
wall of rock. 

Passing round a boulder that lay at the foot of this wall, 
Zibalbay led the way into a tunnel behind it. 

" Do not fear the darkness," he said, " the passage is 
short and there are no pitfalls." 

So we followed the sound of his footsteps through the 
gloom, till presently a spot of light appeared before us, and 
in another minute we stood on the further side of the 
mountain, though we could see nothing of the place be- 
cause of the falling shadows. 



1 82 HEART OF THE WORLD 

"Without pausing, Zibalbay pushed on down the hill, and, 
suddenly turning to the right, stopped before the door of a 
house built of hewn stone. 

" Enter, " he said, " and welcome to the country of the 
People of the Heart. " 

As the door was thrown open, light from the fire within 
streamed through it, and a man's voice was heard asking, 
" Who is there ? " 

Without answering, Zibalbay walked into the room. It 
was a low vaulted apartment, and at a table placed before 
the great fire which burnt upon the hearth sat a man and 
a woman eating. 

" Is this the way that you watch for my return ? " he 
asked in a stern voice. " Haste now and make food ready 
for we are starved with cold and hunger." 

The man, who had risen, stood hesitating, but the woman, 
whose position enabled hsr to see the face of the speaker, 
caught him by the arm, saying, 

" Down to your knees, husband. It is the cacique come 
back.*' 

" Pardon," cried the man, taking the hint ; "but to be 
frank, lord, it has been so dinned in my ears down in 
the city yonder, that neither you nor the Lady of the Heart 
would ever return again, that I thought you must be ghosts. 
Yes, and so they will think in the city, where I have heard 
that Tikal rules in your place." 

"Peace," said Zibalbay, frowning heavily. "We left 
robes here, did we not ? Go, lay them out in the sleeping- 
chambers, and with them others for these my guests, while 
the woman prepares our meat." 

The man bowed, stretching out his arms till the backs of 
his hands touched the ground. Then, taking an earthen- 
ware lamp from a side table, he lit it and disappeared be- 
hind a curtain, an example which the woman followed 
after she had rapidly removed the dishes that were upon 
the table, and fed the fire with wood. 



IG NATIONS OATH 183 

When they were gone we gathered round the hearth to 
bask in the luxury of its warmth. 

" What is this place ? " asked the sefior. 

Zibalbay, who was wrapped in his own thoughts, did n jt 
seem to hear him, and Maya answered, 

" A poor hovel that is used as a rest-house and by hunters 
of game, no more. These people are its keepers, and were 
charged to watch for our return, but they seem to have 
fulfilled their task ill. Pardon me, I go to help them. 
Come, father/' 

They went, and presently the sefior awoke from a doze 
induced by the delightful warmth of the fire, to see the 
custodian of the place standing before him staring at him 
in amazement not unmixed with awe. 

" What is the matter with the man, and what does he 
want, Ignatio ? " he asked in Spanish. 

' ' He wonders at your white skin and fair hair, seflor, 
and says that he does not dare to speak to you because you 
must be one of the Heaven-born of whom their legends 
tell, wherefore he asks me to say that water to wash in 
and raiment to put on have been made ready for us if we 
will come with him." 

Accordingly we followed the Indian, who led us into a 
passage at the back of the sitting-chamber, and thence to a 
small sleeping-room, one of several to which the pas- 
sage gave access. In this room, which was lit by an oil 
lamp, were two bedsteads covered with blankets of deer- 
skin and cotton sheets, and laid upon them were fine linen 
robes, and scrapes made in alternate bands of grey and 
black feathers, worked on to a foundation of stout linen. 
Standing upon wooden stools in a corner of the room, and 
half-filled with steaming water, were two basins, which the 
senor noticed with astonishment were of hammered silver. 

" These people must be rich," he said to me so soon as 
the keeper of the place had gone, "if they fashion the 
utensils of their rest-houses of silver. Till now this story 



184 HEART OF THE WORLD 

of the Sacred City of which Zibalbay was cacique, and 
Maya heiress apparent, has always sounded like a fairy 
tale to me, but it seems that it is true after all, for 
the man's manner shows that Zibalbay is a very important 
person." 

Then we put on the robes that had been provided for our 
use, not without difficulty, since their make was strange to 
us, and returned to the eating-room. Presently the cur- 
tain was drawn, and the Lady Maya joined us the Lady 
Maya, but so changed that we started in astonishment. 

Different, indeed, was she to the ill-clad and travel- 
stained girl who had been our companion for so many 
weeks. Now she was dressed in a robe of snowy white, 
bordered with embroidery of the royal green, and having 
the image of the Heart traced in gold thread upon the 
breast. On her feet were sandals, also worked in green, 
while round her throat, wrists, waist, and ankles shone 
circlets of dead gold. Her dark hair no longer fell loose 
about her, but was twisted into a simple knot and confined 
in a little golden net, and from her shoulders hung a cloak 
of pure white feathers, relieved here and there by the deli- 
cate yellow plumes of the greater egret. 

" Like you I have changed my garments/' she said in ex- 
planation. " Is the dress ugly, that you look astonished?" 

" Ugly ! " answered the seflor, " I think it is the most 
beautiful that I ever saw." 

" This is the most beautiful dress that you ever saw ! 
Why, friend, it is the simplest that I have. Wait till you 
see me in my royal robes, wearing the great emeralds of the 
Heart ; what will you say then, I wonder ?" 

" I cannot tell, but I say now that I don't know which is 
the most lovely, you or your dress." 

" Hush ! " she said, laughing, yet with a note of earnest- 
ness in her voice. ' ' You must not speak thus freely to 
me. Yonder in the pass, friend, I was the Indian girl your 
fellow-traveller ; here I am the Lady of the Heart." 



1C NATIONS OATH 185 

" Then I wish that you had remained the Indian girl in 
the pass/' he answered, after a pause, " but perhaps you 
jest." 

" I was not altogether jesting/' she answered, with a 
sigh, "you must be careful now, or it might be ill for you 
or me, or both of us, since by rank I am the greatest lady 
in this land, and doubtless my cousin, Tikal, will watch me 
closely. See ! here comes my father." 

As she spoke Zibalbay entered, followed by the two In- 
dians bearing food. He was simply dressed in a white 
toga-like robe similar to that which had been given to the 
seilor and myself. A cloak of black feathers covered his 
shoulders, and round his neck was hung a massive gold 
chain to which was attached the emblem of the Heart, also 
fashioned in plain gold. 

We noticed that, as he came, his daughter, Maya, made a 
courtesy to him, which he acknowledged with a nod, and 
that whenever they passed him the two Indians crouched 
almost to the ground. 

Evidently the friendship of our desert journeying was 
done with, and the person of whom we had hitherto thought 
and spoken as an equal must henceforth be treated with 
respect. Indeed the proud -faced, white - bearded c'hief 
seemed so royal in his changed surroundings that we were 
almost moved to follow the example of the others, and bow 
whenever he looked at us. 

" The food is ready," said Zibalbay, M such as it is. Be 
seated, I beg of you. Nay, daughter, you need not stand 
before me. We are still fellow- wanderers, all of us, and 
ceremony can stay till we are come to the City of the 
Heart." 

Then we sat down and the Indians waited on us. What 
the dishes consisted of we did not know, but after our long 
privations it seemed to us that we had never eaten so ex- 
cellent a meal, or drunk anything so good as the native 
wine which was served with it. Still, notwithstanding our 



1 86 HEART OF THE WORLD 

present comfort, I think the seflor's heart misgave him, and 
that he had presentiments of evil. Maya and he still loved 
one another, but he felt that things were utterly changed, 
as she herself had shown him. While they wandered, in 
some sense he had been the head of the party, as, to speak 
truth, among companions of a coloured race a white man of 
gentle birth is always acknowledged to be by right of blood. 
Now things were changed, and he must take his place as 
an alien wanderer, admitted to the country upon suffer- 
ance, and already this difference could be seen in Zibalbay's 
manner and mode of address. Formerly he had called him 
"sefior," or even "friend;" to-night, when speaking to him, 
he used a word which meant " foreigner," or " unknown 
one/' and even myself he addressed by name without add- 
ing any title of respect. 

One good thing, however, we found in this place, who 
had lacked tobacco for six weeks and more, for presently 
the Indian entered bearing cigarettes made by rolling the 
herb in the thin sheath that grows about the cobs of Indian 
corn. 

" Come hither, you," said Zibalbay to the Indian, when 
he had handed us the cigarettes. " Start now to the bor- 
ders of the lake and advise the captain of the village of the 
corn-growers that his lord is returned again, commanding 
him in my name to furnish four travelling litters to be 
here within five hours after sunrise. AVarn him also to have 
canoes in readiness to bear us across the lake, but, as he 
values his life, to send no word of our coming to the city. 
Go now and swiftly." 

The man bowed, and, snatching a spear and a feather 
cloak from a peg near the door, vanished into the night, 
heedless of the howling wind and the sleet that thrashed 
upon the roof. 

" How far is it to the village ? " asked the sefior. 

" Ten leagues or more," Zibalbay answered, " and the 
road is not good, still if he does not fall from a precipice or 



IGNATIUS OATH 1 87 

lose his life in a snow-drift, he will be there within six 
hours. Come, daughter, it is time for us to rest, our jour- 
ney has been long, and you must be weary. Good night to 
you, my guests, to-morrow I shall hope to house you bet- 
ter." Then, bowing to us, he left the room. 

Maya rose to follow his example, and, going to the sefior, 
gave him her hand, which he touched with his lips. 

"How good it is to taste tobacco again," he said as Maya 
went. " No, don't go to bed yet, Ignatio, take a cigarette 
and another glass of this agua ardiente, and let us talk. 
Do you know, friend, it seems to me that Zibalbay has 
changed. I never was a great admirer of his character, 
but perhaps I do not understand it." 

" Do you not, seflor ? I think that I do. Like some 
Christian priests the man is a fanatic, and like myself, a 
dreamer. Also he is full of ambition and tyrannical, one 
who will spare neither himself nor others where he has an 
end to gain, or thinks that he can promote the welfare of 
his country and the glory of his gods. Think how brave 
and earnest the man must have been who, at the bidding of 
a voice or a vision, dared in his old age, unaccompanied 
save by his only child, to lay down his state and travel 
almost without food through hundreds of leagues of bush 
and desert, that none of his race had crossed for genera- 
tions. Think what it must have been to him who for 
many years has been treated almost as divine, to play the 
part of a medicine-man in the forests of Yucatan, and to 
suffer, in his own person and in that of his daughter, in- 
sults and torment at the hands of low white thieves. Yet 
all this and more Zibalbay has borne without a murmur be- 
cause, as he believes, the object of his mission is attained." 

" But, Ignatio, what is the object of his mission, and 
what have we to do with it ? To this hour I do not quite 
know." 

" The object of his mission, and indeed of his life, is to 
build up the fallen empire of the City of the Heart. In 



1 88 HEART OF THE WORLD 

short, sefior, though I do not believe in his gods, in 
Zibalbay's visions I do believe, seeing that they have led 
him to me, whose aim is his aim, and that neither of us 
can succeed without the other." 

"Why not?" 

" Because I need wealth and he needs men ; and if he 
will give me the wealth, I can give him men in thousands." 

" I hear," answered the sefior. " It sounds simple 
enough, but perhaps you will both of you find that there 
are difficulties in the way. What I do not understand, 
however, is what part Maya and I are to play in this affair, 
who are not anxious to regenerate a race or to build up an 
empire. I suppose that we are only spectators of the game." 

" How can that be, sefior, when she is Lady of the Heart 
and heiress to her father, and when," I added, dropping 
my voice, "you and she have grown so dear to one an- 
other?" 

"I did not know that you had noticed anything of that, 
Ignatio. You never seemed to observe our affection, and, 
as you hate women so much, I did not speak of it," he 
answered, colouring. 

" I am not altogether blind, sefior. Also, is it possible 
for a man not to know when a woman comes between him 
and the friend he loves ? But of that I will say nothing, 
for it is as it should be ; besides, you might scarcely under- 
stand me if I did. No, no, sefior, you cannot be left out 
of this game, you are too deep in it already, though what 
part you will play I cannot tell. It depends, perhaps, 
upon what the gods reveal to Zibalbay, or what he guesses 
that they reveal. At present he is well disposed towards 
you because he thinks that the oracle may declare you to 
be the son of Quetzal through whom his people shall be 
redeemed, since it seems that here there is some such 
prophecy, and for this reason it is that he has not for- 
bidden the friendship between you and his daughter, or so 
he hinted to me. But be warned, seflor ; for if he comes 



THE CITY OF THE HEART 189 

to know that you are not the man, then he will sweep you 
aside as of small account, and you may bid farewell to the 
Lady of the Heart." 

"I will not do that while I live/' he answered quietly. 

" No, sefior, perhaps not while you live, but those who 
stand in the path of priests and kings do not live long. 
Still, though there is cause to be cautious, there is no 
cause to be down-hearted, seeing that if you are not the 
man, I may be, in which case I shall be able to help you, 
as I have sworn to the Lady Maya that I will do, or per- 
haps you will be able to help me." 

" At any rate, we will stand together," said the sen or. 
"And now, as there is no use in talking of the future, I 
think that we had better go to sleep. Of one thing, how- 
ever, you may be certain unless she dies, or I die, I mean 
to marry Maya." 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE CITY OF THE HEAKT 

WHILE it was yet dark on the following morning we were 
awakened by the voice of Zibalbay calling us. 

" Arise," he said ; " it is time to start upon our road." 

" Are the litters here ?" I asked. 

" No, nor can be for some hours. I desire to reach the 
city this night, therefore we must push forward on foot to 
meet them." 

Then we rose, and, having no choice, dressed ourselves 
as best we could in the garments of the country that had 
been given to us, for our own were but rags, in which we 
were ashamed to be seen. In the common room we found 
Zibalbay and the Lady Maya. 



190 HEART OF THE WORLD 

"Eat," said the old man, pointing to food that was 
ready, "and let us be going." 

Ten minutes later we were outside the house. There was 
no wind, but at this great height the air is of so piercing 
a quality that we were glad to fold our serapes round us and 
walk briskly forward, Zibalbay leading the way. At first 
a grey gloom reigned, but presently snowy peaks shone 
through it, everywhere radiant with the hues of the unrisen 
sun, although the mountain sides beneath us were still 
wrapped in night. By degrees, as the light grew, we saw 
that the country at our feet was shaped like a bowl, where- 
of the mountain range upon which we stood formed the 
rim, and at the bottom of the bowl, fed by numberless 
streams that had their sources among the surrounding 
snows, lay the lake, the Holy Waters of this people. Of 
all this, however, we could as yet see little, since the vast 
expanse beneath us lay hidden in volumes of mist that 
moved and rolled like the face of ocean. Never before had 
we looked upon anything so strange as this dense garment 
of vapour while the light of heaven gathered upon its sur- 
face, tingeing it with lines and patches of colour. It seemed 
as though a map of the world was unrolled before us con- 
tinents, seas, islands, and cities formed themselves, only to 
disappear in quick succession and assume new and endless 
shapes. 

"It is beautiful, is it not?" said Maya. "But wait 
until the mist breaks. Look, it is beginning ! " 

As she spoke, of a sudden the sea of mist grew thin and 
opened in its centre, and through the gap thus formed 
showed first the pyramids and temple tops, and then the 
entire panorama of the city Heart of the World, floating, 
as it were, upon the face of the Holy Waters. It was far 
away, but, now that the night fog no longer thickened the 
air, so clear was the atmosphere and so high were we above 
it, that it seemed to be almost at our feet. The city, which 
appeared to be surrounded by a wall, was built of marble 



THE CITY OF THE HEART 19! 

or some other snow-white stone, whereon the light gleamed 
and flashed. It stood upon a heart-shaped island, and 
round about the shores of this island, stretching further 
than the eye could reach, sparkled the blue waters of the 
Holy Lake. By degrees the ring of mist rolled up the sides 
of the mountains and vanished, and in place of it the 
round bowl of the valley Avas filled Avith the clear light of 
day. Now we could see the shores of the lake, with their 
green fringe of reeds ; and above them grass lands threaded 
by silver streams ; and above these again, upon the flanks of 
the mountains, great forests of oak and cedars rising almost 
to the snow line. To the right and left of us the huge, 
round-shouldered mountains stretched in a majestic sweep 
till they melted into the blue of the horizon, while here 
and there some tall, snow-robed peak, the cone of an ex- 
tinct volcano, towered above us like a sentinel. 

" There lies my country," said Maya, with a proud wave 
of her hand ; " does it please you, white man ?" 

"It pleases me so well, Maya," he answered, "that now 
less than ever can I understand why you wish to leave it." 

" Because, 'though lakes and mountains and cities full of 
wealth are fine things, it is not to these, but to the men and 
women among whom we live, that we must look for happi- 
ness." 

" Some people might think otherwise, Maya. They 
might say that happiness must be sought for in ourselves. 
At least I could be happy in such a land as this." 

"You think so now," she answered, meaningly, "but 
when you have been awhile in the city yonder, you will 
think otherwise. Oh ! " she went on, passionately, " if, in- 
deed, you care for me, we should never have crossed that 
mountain behind us. But you do not care for me not 
truly ; for all this time you have been half ashamed of your 
affection for an Indian girl whom you were obliged to be- 
come fond of, because she was pretty and you were so much 
with her, and she chanced to save your life. Yes, you would 



192 HEART OF THE WORLD 

have been ashamed to marry me according to your customs, 
and to show me as your wife among the white people me, 
the wandering Indian with a mad father whom you found 
in the hands of thieves. Here it will be different, for here 
at least I am a great lady, and you will see the people in 
the streets bow themselves to the ground before me ; and if 
I say that a man shall die, you will see that man killed. 
Also here I have wealth more than any white woman, and 
you will be fond of me for that " 

" You are very unjust," he broke in, angrily ; " it is 
shameful that you should speak to me thus for no cause." 

" Perhaps I am unjust," she answered with a sob, " but 
there are so many troubles before us. First there is 
Tikal- 

" What does Tikal want ?" asked the seftor. 

" He wants to marry me, or to become cacique of the 
city in my right, which is the same thing ; at least he will 
not give me up without a struggle. Then there is my 
father, who serves two masters only, his gods and his coun- 
try, and who will use me like a piece in a game if it suits 
his purpose yes, and you too. Our good days are done 
with, the evil ones have to come, and after them the night. 
Henceforward we shall find few opportunities of speaking, 
even, for I shall be surrounded by officers and waiting- 
ladies who will watch my every action and hear my every 
word, and my father will watch me also." 

" Now I begin to be sorry that I did not take your ad- 
vice and stop on the further side of the mountain," an- 
swered the sefior. " Do you think that we could escape 
there ? " 

" No, it is too late they would track us down ; we must 
go on now and meet our fate, whatever it may be. Only 
swear to me by my gods, or your own, or whatever you 
hold dear, that you will cleave to me till I am dead, as I 
will cleave to you." And, taking his hand in hers, she 
looked up appealingly into his face. 



THE CITY OF THE HEART 1 93 

At this moment Zibalbay, who was walking in front, lost 
in his own thoughts, chanced to turn and see them. 

" Come hither, daughter, and you, White Man," he said, 
in a stern voice. " Listen, both of you I am old, but my 
sight and hearing are still keen, though yonder in the wil- 
derness I took no heed of much that I saw and heard. 
Here in my own land it is otherwise. Learn, White Man, 
that the Lady of the Heart is set far above you, and there 
I think she will remain. Do you understand my mean- 
ing ? " 

" Perfectly," answered the seiior, striving to control his 
anger ; " but, Chief, it is a pity that you did not see well 
to tell me this before. Had it not been for what we and 
one dead were able to do to save you, to-day your bones 
would have been whitening in the forest. Why did you 
not tell me there that I was no fit company for your daugh- 
ter ? " 

" Because you were sent by the gods to do me service, 
and because there I had need of you, White Man," answered 
Zibalbay quietly, "as may be I shall have need of you 
again. Had it not been for that chance, we should have 
parted company on the further side of the mountain." 

" In truth I wish that we had ! " exclaimed the seflor. 

" I may come to wish it, too," said the old man grimly. 
" But you are here and not there, perhaps for so long as 
you shall live, and I would have you remember that you 
are in my power. A word from me will set you high or 
lay you low beneath the earth ; therefore be warned and 
take with gratitud'e that which it shall please me to give 
you. No, do not look behind you escape is impossible. 
Submit yourself to my will in this and everything, and all 
shall be well with you; struggle against it and I will crush 
you. I have spoken : be pleased to walk in front of me, 
and do you, my daughter, walk behind." 

Now I saw that the sefior's rage was great, and that he 
was about to answer angrily, and lifted my hand in warn- 

p 



194 HEART OF THE WORLD 

ing, while Maya looked at him entreatingly. He saw, and 
checked himself. 

" I hear your words, Chief," he said, in a forced voice. 
You are right, I am in your power, and it is useless for 
me to answer you," and he took his place in front as he 
had 'been commanded, while Maya fell behind. 

As I walked on, side by side with Zibalbay, I spoke to 
him, saying : 

' ' You use sharp words towards him who is my brother, 
Chief, and therefore towards me." 

" I speak as I must," he answered, coldly. " Many 
troubles await me at the city. Did you not hear what that 
knave said last night, that Tikal, my nephew, whom I left 
in charge, rules in my stead ? Well, this girl of mine, 
who is affianced to him, and through whom he hopes to 
govern in after years, may be the only bait that will tempt 
him from his place, for he looks upon me as one dead, and 
it will not please him to lay down the rod of power. How 
should it please him then, and those who follow him, to see 
a white stranger holding that daughter's hand, and whis- 
pering in her ear. Ignatio, I tell you that such a sight 
would provoke a war against me, and therefore it is that I 
spoke sharply while there is yet time, and therefore you 
will do well to drive the nail home, seeing that if I fall 
your plans will come to nothing, and your life be forfeit." 

I made no answer, for at that moment we turned a 
corner, and came face to face with the bearers of the litters 
whom Zibalbay had summoned to meet us. 

There were forty of these men or more ; for the most 
part they were tall and well shaped, with regular features, 
and, like Zibalbay and Maya, very fair for Indians, but the 
look upon their faces was different from any that I have 
seen among my people. It was not stupid or brutal, or 
even empty ; rather did it suggest great weariness. The 
youngest man there, notwithstanding his rounded cheeks 
and eyes full of health, seemed as though he were weighed 



THE CITY OF THE HEART 195 

down by the memories of many years. Weariness was the 
master, not of their bodies, for they were very strong and 
active, but of their minds ; and, looking at them, I could 
understand what Zibalbay meant when he said that his 
race was outworn. Even the sight of the white face of the 
seflor, strange as it must have been to them, did not seem 
to move them. They stared indeed, muttering something 
to each other as to the length and colour of his beard, and 
that was all. 

But to Zibalbay they said, in low, guttural tones, 
"Father, we salute you," then, at a signal given by their 
captain, they cast themselves upon the ground before him, 
and lay there with outstretched arms as though they were 
dead. 

" Rise, my children," said Zibalbay. Then, summoning 
the captain of the bearers, he talked to him while his com- 
panions ate food that they had brought with them, and I 
noted that what he heard seemed to give him little pleas- 
ure. Next he ordered us to enter the litters, which were 
of rude make,- being constructed of chairs without curtains, 
lashed between two poles, and carried, each of them, by 
eight bearers, for the road was very steep and rough. 

We started forward down the mountain, and in an hour 
we had left the region of snow behind, and entered the 
cedar forests. These great trees grew in groups, which 
were separated by glades of turf, the home of herds of deer. 
So thick was their foliage that a twilight reigned beneath 
them, while from each branch hung a fringe of grey 
Spanish moss that swayed to and fro in the draught of the 
mountain breeze. Everywhere stretched vistas that brought 
to my mind memories of the dimly-lighted nave of the great 
cathedral at Mexico, roofed by the impenetrable boughs of 
these cedars, whereof the trunks might have been support- 
ing columns and the scent of their leaves the odour of 
incense. 

After the cedar belt came the oak groves, and then miles 



196 HEART. OF THE WORLD 

of beautiful turf slopes, clothed in rich grass starred with 
flowers. Truly it was a lovely land. It was late in the 
afternoon before we descended the last of these slopes and 
entered the tract of alluvial soil that lay between them and 
the lake, where the climate was much warmer. It was easy 
to see by the irrigation ditches and other signs that this 
belt of country had always supplied the inhabitants of the 
City of the Heart with corn and all necessary crops. Here 
grew great groves of sugar-cane, and cocoa-bushes laden 
with their purple pods, together with many varieties of 
fruit-trees planted in separate orchards. Soon it became 
clear to us that the greater part of these ancient orchards 
were untended, since their fruit rotted in heaps upon the 
ground. Evidently they -had been planted in more pros- 
perous days, and now their supply exceeded the wants of 
the population. 

At length, as the evening began to fall, we entered the 
village of corn-growers, a half -ruined place of which the 
houses were for the most part built of adobe or mud bricks, 
and roofed with a concrete of white lime. In the centre of 
the village was a plaza, planted round with trees, and hav- 
ing in its midst a fountain, near to which stood a simple 
altar, piled with fruit and flowers. Close to th^ altar the 
inhabitants of the village, to the number of a hundred or 
so, were gathered to meet us. Mst of the men had but 
just come in from their labours, for their garments and 
feet were stained with fresh earth, and they held copper 
hoes and reaping-hooks in their hands. All these men wore 
upon their faces the same look of weariness of mind which 
we had noticed in the bearers. So monotonous were their 
countenances, indeed, that I turned my eyes impatiently 
to the group of women who were standing behind them. 
Like their husband and brothers, these women were very 
fair for Indians, and handsome in person, but they also had 
been stamped with melancholy. The sight of the seflor's 
white skin and chestnut-coloured beard seemed for some 



THE CITY OF THE HEART 1 97 

few moments to ronse them from their attitude of listless 
indifference. Soon, however, they fell into it again, and 
began to chat idly, or to play with and pull to pieces the 
flowers that every one of them wore at her girdle. There 
were hardly any children among tho crowd, and. it was 
strange to observe how great was the resemblance of the 
individuals composing it to each other. Indeed, had they 
all been members of a single family it could not have been 
more marked, seeing that it was difficult for a stranger To 
distinguish one woman from another of about the same 
age. 

When Zibalbay descended from his litter, all those pres- 
ent prostrated themselves, and remained thus till, followed 
by some of the headmen, he had passed into a house which 
was made ready for his use, leaving us without. 

" Do all your people look so sad ? " I asked the Lady 
Maya. 

"Yes," she answered, "that is, all the common people 
who labour. It is otherwise with the nobles, who are of a 
different blood. Here, Don Ignatio, there are two classes, 
the lords and the people, and of the people each family is 
forced to work for three months in the year, the other nine 
being given to them for rest. The fruits of their labour 
are gathered into storehouses and distributed among all the 
Children of the Heart, but the temples, the cacique, and 
many of the nobles have their own serfs who have served 
them from father to son." 

" And what happens if they will not work ? " asked the 
seflor. 

' " Then they must starve, for nothing is served out to 
them or their families from the common store, and when 
they grow hungry they are set to the heaviest tasks." 

Now we understood why these people looked so weary 
and listless. What could be expected from men and women 
without ambition or responsibility, the gain of whose toil 
was placed to the public credit and doled out to them in 



IQ8 HEART OP THE WORLD 

rations ? In my old age I have heard that there are 
teachers who advocate such a system for all mankind, but 
of this I am sure, that had they dwelt among the People of 
the Heart, where it had been in force for many centuries, 
they would cease to preach this doctrine, for there, at least, 
it did not promote the welfare of the race. 

Presently a messenger came from Zibalbay to summon us 
into the house, where we found an ample meal prepared, 
consisting chiefly of fish from the lake, baked wild-fowl, and 
many sorts of fruit. By the time we had finished eating 
and had drunk the chocolate that was served to us in cups 
of hammered silver, the night had fallen completely. I 
asked Zibalbay if we should sleep there, to which he replied 
shortly that we were about to start for the city. Accord- 
ingly we set out by the light of the moon and were guided 
to a little harbour in the shore of the lake, where a large 
canoe, fitted with a inast and sail, and manned by ten In- 
dians, was waiting for us. We embarked, and, the wind 
being off land, hoisted the sail and started towards the 
Island of the Heart, which stood at a distance of about 
fifteen miles from the mainland. 

The breeze was light, but after the cold of the mountains 
the air was so soft and balmy, and the scene so new and 
strange, that I, for one, did not regret our slow progress. 
Nobody spoke in the boat, for all of us were lost in our own 
reflections, and the Indians were awed to silence by the 
presence of their lord, who alone seemed impatient, since 
from time to time he pulled his beard and muttered to 
himself. So we glided across the blue lake, whose quiet 
was broken only by the whistling wings of the wild-fowl 
travelling to their feeding-grounds, by the sudden leaps of 
great fish rising in pursuit of some night-fly, and by the 
lapping of the water against the wooden sides of the canoe. 
Before us, luminous and unearthly in the perfect moon- 
light, shone the walls and templos of the mysterious city 
which we had travelled so far to reach. We watched them 



THE CITY OF THE HEART igg 

growing more and more distinct minute by minute, and, as 
we watched, strange hopes and fears took possession of our 
hearts. This was no dream : before us lay the fabled 
golden town we had so longed to see ; soon our feet would 
pass its white walls and our eyes behold its ancient civili- 
sation. 

" What waits us there ? " whispered the seflor, and he 
looked at Maya. She heard his words and shook her head 
sadly. There was no hope in her eyes, which were dimmed 
with tears. Then he turned to me as though for comfort, 
and the easy fires of enthusiasm burnt up within me and I 
answered : 

" Fear not, the goal is won, and we shall overcome 
all difficulty and danger. The useless wealth of yonder 
Golden City will be ours, and by its help I shall wreak the 
stored-up vengeance of ages upon the oppressors of my race, 
and create a great Indian Dominion stretching from sea to 
sea, whereof this city shall be the heart." 

He heard and smiled, answering : 

" It may be so ; for your sake, I trust that it will be so ; 
but we seek different ends, Ignatio," and he looked again 
at the Lady Maya. 

On we glided, through the moonlight and the silence, 
for from the town came no sound, save the cry of the 
watchmen, calling the hours, as they kept their guard 
along the ancient walls, till at length we entered the 
shadow of the Holy City lying dark upon the waters, and 
the Indians, getting out their paddles (for the wind no 
longer served us), rowed the canoe up a stone-embanked 
canal that led to a Watergate. 

Now we halted in front of the gate, where there was no 
man to be seen. In an impatient voice, Zibalbay bade the 
captain hail the guardian of the gate, and presently a man 
came down the steps yawning, and inquired who was there. 

" I, the cacique," said Zibalbay. " Open." 

<! Indeed ! That is strange," answered the man, "seeing 



200 HEART OF THE WORLD 

that this night the cacique holds his marriage-feast at the 
palace yonder, and there is but one cacique of the People 
of the Heart ! Get back to the mainland, wanderers, and 
return in the day-time, when the gates stand wide." 

Now when Zibalbay heard these words, he cursed aloud 
in his anger, but Maya started as though with joy. 

" I tell you that I am Zibalbay, come home again, your 
lord, and no other," he cried, " and you will be wise to do 
my bidding." 

The man stared, and hesitated, till the captain of the 
boat spoke to him, saying : 

" Fool, would you become food for fishes ? This is the 
Lord Zibalbay, returned from the dead." 

Then he hastened to open the gate, as fast as his fear 
would let him. 

" Pardon, father, pardon," he cried, prostrating himself, 
" but the Lord Tikal, who rules in your place, has given it 
out that you were dead in the wilderness, and commanded 
that your name should be spoken no more in the city." 

Zibalbay swept by him without a word. When he had 
passed up the marble steps, and through the water-way, 
pierced in the thickness of the frowning walls, he halted, 
and, addressing the captain of the boatmen, said : 

"Let this man be scourged to-morrow at noon in the 
market-place, that henceforth he may learn not to sleep 
at his post ! " 

On the further side of the wall ran a wide street, bor- 
dered by splendid houses built of white stone, which led to 
the central square of the city, a mile or more away. Up 
this street we walked swiftly and in silence, and as we went 
I noticed that much of it was grass-grown, and that many 
of the great houses seemed to be deserted ; indeed, though 
light came from some of the latticed window-places, I could 
see no sign of any human being. 

" Here is the city,'" whispered the seflor to me, " but 
where are the people ?" 



THE CITY OF THE HEART 2 OI 

"Doubtless they celebrate the wedding-feast in the great 
square," I answered. " Hark, I hear them." 

As I spoke the wind turned a little, and a sound of sing- 
ing floated down it, that grew momentarily clearer as we 
approached the square. Another five minutes passed and 
we were entering it. It was a wide place, covering not less 
than thirty acres of ground, and in its centre, rising three 
hundred feet into the air, gleamed the pyramid of the 
Temple of the Heart, crowned by the star of holy fire that 
flickered eternally upon its summit. In the open space 
between the walls of the inclosure of this pyramid and 
the great buildings that formed the sides of the square, the 
inhabitants of the city were gathered for their midnight 
feast. All were dressed in white robes, while many wore 
glittering feather capes upon their shoulders and were 
crowned with wreaths of flowers. Some of them were 
dancing, some of them were singing, while others watched 
the tricks of jugglers and buffoons. But the most of their 
number were seated round little tables eating, drinking, 
smoking, and making love, and we noticed that at these 
tables the children seemed the most honourable guests, and 
that everybody petted them and waited on their words. 
Nothing could be more beautiful or stranger to our eyes 
than this innocent festival celebrated beneath the open sky 
and lighted by the moon. Yet the sight of it did not 
please Zibalbay. 

Along the side of the square ran an avenue of trees 
bearing white flowers with a heavy scent, and Zibalbay 
motioned to us to follow him into their shadow. Many of 
the tables were placed just beyond the spread of these trees, 
so that he was able to stop from time to time and, unseen 
himself, to listen to the talk that was passing at them. 
Presently he halted thus opposite to a table at which sat a 
man of middle age and a woman young and pretty. What 
they said interested him, and we who were close by his side 
understood it, for the difference between the dialect of 



202 HEART OF THE WORLD 

these people and the Maya tongue is so small that even the 
seflor had little difficulty in following their talk. 

" The feast is merry to-night, " said the man. 

" Yes, husband," answered his companion, " and so it 
should be, seeing that yesterday the Lord Tikal was elected 
cacique by the Council of the Heart, and to-day he was 
wedded in the presence of the people to Nahua the Beauti- 
ful, child of the Lord Mattai." 

" It was a fine sight," said the man, " though for my 
part I think it early to proclaim him cacique. Zibalbay 
might yet come back, and then " 

" Zibalbay will never come back, husband, or the Lady 
Maya either. They have perished in the wilderness long 
ago. For her I am sorry, because she was so lovely and 
different from other great ladies ; but I do not grieve much 
for him, for he was a hard taskmaster to us common peo- 
ple ; also he was stingy. Why, Tikal has given more feasts 
during the last ten months than Zibalbay gave in as many 
years ; moreover, he has relaxed the laws so that we poor 
women may now wear ornaments like our betters ; " and 
she glanced at a gold bracelet upon her wrist. 

"It is easy to be generous with the goods of others," 
answered the man. " Zibalbay was the bee who stored ; 
Tikal is the wasp who eats. They say that the old fellow 
was mad, but I do not believe it. I think that he was a 
greater man than the rest of us, that is all, who saw the 
wasting of the people and desired to find a means to stop 
it." 

" Certainly he was mad," answered the woman. " How 
could he stop the wasting of the people by taking his 
daughter to wander in the wilderness till they died of star- 
vation, both of them. If anybody dwells out yonder it is a 
folk of white devils of whom we have heard, who kill and 
enslave the Indians, that they may rob them of their 
wealth, and we do not desire that such should be shown the 
way to our city. Also, what does it matter to us if the peo- 



THE CTTY OF THE HEART 203 

pie do waste away ? We have all things that we wish, those 
who come after must see to it." 

" Yet, wife, I have heard you say that you desired chil- 
dren." 

Suddenly the woman's face -jfrew sad. 

"Ah I " she answered, "if Zibalbay will give me a child 
I will take back all my words about him, and proclaim him 
the wisest of men, instead of what he is, or rather was an 
old fool gone crazy with vanity and too much praying. 
But he is dead, and if he were not he could never do this ; 
that is beyond the power of the gods themselves, if indeed 
the gods are anything except a dream. So what is the use 
of talking about him ; let me enjoy the feast that Tikal 
gives us, husband, and do not speak of children, lest I 
should weep, and learn to hate those of my sisters who have 
been blest with them." 

Then at a sign from Zibalbay we moved on, but Maya, 
hanging back for a moment, whispered : 

" Look at my father's face. Never have I seen him so 
angry. Yet these tidings are not altogether ill," and she 
glanced at the seflor. 

Now Zibalbay walked on swiftly, pulling at his beard 
and muttering to himself, till we came to a great archway 
where two soldiers armed with copper spears stood on 
guard, chatting with women in the crowd that gathered 
round the open door, and eating sweetmeats which they 
offered them. Zibalbay covered his face with the corner of 
his robe, and, bidding us do likewise, began to walk through 
the archway, whereupon the two soldiers, crossing their 
spears, demanded his name and title. 

" By whose orders do you ask ? " said Zibalbay. 

"By order of our lord, the cacique, who celebrates his 
marriage-feast with the nobles his guests," answered one 
of them. " Say, are you of their number who come so 
late?" 

Then Zibalbay uncovered his face and said : 



204 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" Look at me, man. Did I command you to shnt my 
own doors against me ?" 

He looked and gasped : " It is the cacique come home 
again ! " 

" How, then, do you say that you keep the doors by order 
of the cacique ? Can there be two caciques in the City of 
the Heart ? " asked Zibalbay in a bitter voice, and, without 
waiting for an answer, he walked on, followed by the three 
of us, into the plaza or courtyard of the palace, where 
many fountains splashed upon the marble pavement. 

Passing beneath a colonnade and through an open door- 
way whence light flowed, of a sudden we found ourselves in 
a great and wonderful chamber, a hundred feet or more in 
length, having a roof of panelled cedar, supported by a 
double row of wooden columns exquisitely carved, between 
which were set tables laden with fruit and flowers, drink- 
ing-vessels, and other ornaments of gold. The walls also 
were cedar-panelled, and hung over with tapestries worked 
in silver, and ranged along them stood grotesque images of 
dwarfs and monkeys, fashioned in solid gold, each of which 
held in its hand a silver lamp. At the far end of this 
place was a small table, and behind it, seated upon throne- 
like chairs, were a man and a woman, having an armed 
guard on either side of them. 

The man was magnificently dressed in a white robe, 
broidered with the symbol of the Heart, and a glittering 
feather cloak. Upon his brow was a circlet of gold, from 
which rose a panache, or plume, of green feathers, and in 
his hand he held a little golden sceptre tipped with an 
emerald. He was of middle height, very stoutly built, and 
about five-and-thirty years of age, having straight black 
hair that hung down upon his shoulders. In face he was 
handsome, but forbidding, for his dark eyes shone with a 
strange fire beneath the beetling brows, and his powerful 
mouth and chin wore a sullen look that did not leave them 
even when he smiled. The lady at his side was also beauti- 



HOW ZIBALBAY CAME HOME 205 

fully attired in Avhite bridal robes, bordered with silver, 
and having the royal Heart worked upon her breast, while 
on her brow, arms, and bosom shone strings of emeralds. 
She was young and tall, with splendid eyes and a proud, 
handsome face, somewhat marred, however, by the heaviness 
of the mouth, and it was easy to see that she loved the 
husband at her side, for all her looks were towards him. 

Between us and this royal pair stretched the length of 
the great hall, filled with people for the most of the 
feasters had left their seats so splendidly attired and so 
bright with the flash of gems and gold that for a few mo- 
ments our eyes were dazzled. The company, who may 
have numbered two or three hundred, stood in groups with 
their backs towards us, leaving a clear space at the far end 
of the chamber, where beautiful women, in filmy, silken 
robes adorned with flowers and turquoises, were singing and 
dancing to the sound of pipes before the bride and bride- 
groom on the throne. 



CHAPTER XV 

HOW ZIBALBAY CAME HOME 

FOE a while we stood unnoticed in the shadow of the door- 
way, observing this strange and beautiful scene, till, as 
Zibalbay was about to advance towards the throne, the 
Lord Tikal held up his sceptre as a signal, and suddenly 
the women ceased from their dance and song. At the 
sight of the uplifted sceptre, Zibalbay halted again and 
drew back further into the shadow, motioning us to do 
likewise. Then Tikal began to speak in a rich, deep voice 
that filled the hall : 

"Councillors and Nobles of the Heart," he said, "and 
you, high-born ladies, wives and daughters of the nobles, 



206 HEART OF THE WORLD 

hear me. But yesterday, as you know, I took upon my- 
self the place and power of my forefathers, and by your 
wish and will I was proclaimed the sole chief and ruler of 
the People of the Heart. Now I have bidden you to my 
marriage feast, that you may grace my nuptials and share 
my joy. For be it known to you that to-night I have 
taken in marriage Nahua the Beautiful, daughter of the 
High Lord Mattai, Chief of the Astronomers, Keeper of the 
Sanctuary, and President of the Council of the Heart. 
Her, in the presence of you all, I name as my first and 
lawful wife, the sharer of my power, and your ruler under 
me, who, whate'er betide, cannot be put away from my 
bed and throne, and as such I call upon you to salute her." 

Then, ceasing from his address, he turned and kissed the 
woman at his side, saying : 

" Hail ! to you, Lady of the Heart, whom it has pleased 
the gods to lift up and bless. May children be given to 
you, and with them happiness and power for many years/' 

Thereon the whole company bowed themselves before 
Nahua, whose fair face flushed with pride and joy, and 
repeated, as with one voice : 

" Hail ! to you, Lady of the Heart, whom it has pleased 
the gods to lift up and bless. May children be given to 
you, and with them happiness and power for many years." 

"Nobles," went on Tikal, when this ceremony was 
finished, " it has come to my ears that there are some who 
murmur against me, saying that I have no right to the 
ancient sceptre of cacique which I hold in my hand this 
night. Nobles, I have somewhat to say to you of this 
matter, that to-morrow, after the sacrifice, I shall repeat in 
the ears of the common people, and I say it having con- 
sulted with my Council, the masters of the mysteries of 
the Heart. To-morrow a year will have gone by since Zi- 
balbay, my uncle, who was cacique before me, and his only 
child and heiress of his rank and power, the Lady Maya, 
my affianced bride, left the city upon a certain mission. 



HO IV ZIBALBAY CAME HOME 207 

Before they departed upon this mission, it was agreed be- 
tween Zibalbay, Maya, the Lady of the Heart, myself, and 
the Council, the Brotherhood of the Heart, that I should rule 
as next heir during the absence of Zibalbay and his daugh- 
ter, and that if they should not return within two years, 
then their heritage should be mine for ever. To this 
agreement I set my name with sorrow, for then, as now, I 
held that my uncle was mad, and in his madness went to 
doom, taking with him his daughter whom I loved. Yet 
when they were gone I fulfilled it to the letter ; but trouble 
arose among the people, for they will not listen to the 
voice of one who is not their anointed lord, but say, ' We 
will wait until Zibalbay comes again and hear his command 
upon these matters/ 

" Also, Zibalbay being absent, there was no high priest 
left in the land, so that until a successor was raised up to 
him, certain of the inmost mysteries of our worship must 
go uncelebrated, thus bringing down upon us the anger of 
the Nameless god. So it came about that many pressed it 
on me that for the sake of the people and the welfare of 
the city, I should shorten the period of my regency and 
suffer myself to be anointed. But, remembering my prom- 
ise, I answered them sharply, saying that I would not de- 
part from it by a hair's breadth, and that, come what 
might, two full years must be completed before I sat me 
down in the place of my fathers. 

" To this mind, then, I held till three days since, when 
those of the people to whose lot it fell in turn to pass to 
the mainland, there to cultivate the fields that are appor- 
tioned to the service of the temple, refused to get them to 
their labour, declaring that the high priest alone had 
authority over them, and there was no high priest in the 
city. Then in my perplexity I took counsel with the Lord 
Mattai, Master of the Stars, and he consulted the stars on 
rny behalf. All night long he searched the heavens, and 
he read in them that Zibalbay, who, led by a lying dream, 



208 HEART OF THE WORLD 

broke through the laws of the land and wandered across 
the mountains, has paid the price of his folly, and is dead 
in the wilderness, together with his daughter that was my 
affianced and the Lady of the Heart. Is it not so, Mattai ? " 

Now the person addressed, a stout man with a bald head, 
quick, shifting eyes, and a thick and grizzled beard, stepped 
forward and said, bowing, 

" If my wisdom is not at fault, such was the message of 
the stars, lord." 

" Nobles," went on Tikal, "you have heard my testimony 
and the testimony of Mattai, whose voice is the voice of 
truth. For these reasons I have suffered myself to be 
anointed and set over you as your ruler, seeing that I am 
the heir of Zibalbay by law and by descent. For these 
reasons also she to whom I was affianced being dead I 
have taken to wife Nahua the daughter of Mattai. Say, 
do you accept us ? " 

Some few of the company were silent, but the rest cried : 

" We accept you, Tikal and Nahua, and long may you 
rule over us according to the ancient customs of the land." 

"It is well, my brethren," answered Tikal. " Now, be- 
fore we drink the parting-cup, have any of you ought to 
say to me ? " 

" I have something to say to you," cried Zibalbay in a 
loud voice from the shadows wherein we stood at the far 
end of the hall. 

At the sound of his voice, the tones of which he seemed 
to know, Tikal started and rose in fear, but, recovering 
himself, said : 

"Advance from the shadow, whoever you are, and say 
your say where men may see you." 

Turning to his daughter and to us, Zibalbay bade us 
follow him, and do as he did. Then, veiling his face with 
a corner of his robe, he walked up the hall, the crowd of 
nobles and ladies opening a path till we stood before the 
throne. Here ho uncovered himself, as we did also, and 



HOW ZIBALBAY CAME HOME 209 

standing sideways, so that he could be seen both by Tikal 
and all that company, he opened his lips to speak. Before 
a word could pass them a cry of astonishment broke from 
the nobles, and of a sudden the sceptre fell from the- hand 
of Tikal and rolled along the floor. 

"Zibalbay I" said the cry. " It is Zibalbay come back, 
or the ghost of him, and with him the Lady of the Heart ! " 

"Aye, nobles," he said, in a quiet voice, although his 
hand shook with rage, " it is I, Zibalbay, your lord, come 
home, and not too soon, as it would seem. What, my 
nephew, were you so hungry for my place and power, that 
you must break the oath you swore upon the Heart, and 
seize them before the appointed time ? And you, Mattai, 
have you lost your skill, or have the gods smitten you with 
a curse, that you prophesy falsely, saying that it was 
written in the stars that we who are alive were dead, there- 
by lifting up your daughter to the seat of the Lady of 
the Heart. Nay, do not answer me. Standing yonder I 
have heard all your story. I say to you, Tikal, that you 
are a foresworn traitor, and to you, Mattai, that you are a 
charlatan and a liar, who have dared to use the holy art for 
your own ends, and the advancement of your house. On 
both of you will I be avenged, aye, and on all those who 
have abetted you in your crimes. Guards, seize that man, 
and the Lord Mattai with him, and let them be held fast 
till I shall judge them." 

Now the soldiers that stood on either side of the thrones 
hesitated for a moment, and then advanced towards Tikal 
as though to lay hands upon him in obedience to Zibalbay's 
order. But Nahua rose and waved them off, saying : 

"What ! dare you to touch your anointed lord ? Back, 
I say to you, if you would save yourselves from the doom of 
sacrilege. Living or dead, the day of Zibalbay is done, for 
the Council of the Heart has set his crown upon the brow 
of Tikal, and, whether for good or ill, their decree cannot 
be changed." 



210 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" Aye ! " said Tikal, whose courage had come back to 
him. " The Lady Nahua speaks truth. Touch me not if 
you would live to look upon the sun." 

But all the while he spoke his eyes were fixed upon 
Maya, whose beautiful face he watched as though it were 
that of some lost love risen from the dead. 

Now, as Zibalbay was about to speak again, Mattai the 
astronomer bowed before him and said : 

" Be not angry, but hear me, my lord. You have trav- 
elled far, and you are weary, and a weary man is apt at 
wrath. You think that you have been wronged, and, 
doubtless, all this that has chanced is strange to you, but 
now is not the time for us to give count of our acts and 
stewardship, or for you to hearken. Rest this night ; and 
to-morrow on the pyramid, in the presence of the people, 
all things shall be made clear to you, and justice be done 
to all. Welcome to you, Zibalbay, and to you also, Daugh- 
ter of the Heart, and say, who are these strangers that 
you bring with you from the desert lands across the moun- 
tains ? " 

Zibalbay paused awhile, looking round him out of the 
corners of his eyes, like a wolf in a trap, for he sought to 
discover the temper of the nobles. Then, finding that 
there were but few present whom he could trust to help him, 
he lifted his head and answered : 

" You are right, Mattai, I am weary ; for age, travel, and 
the faithlessness of men have worn me out. To-morrow 
these matters shall be dealt with in the presence of the 
people, and there, before the altar, it shall be made known 
whether I am their lord, or you, Tikal. There, too, I will 
tell you who these strangers are, and why I have brought 
them across the mountains. Until then I leave them in 
your keeping, for your own sake charging you to keep 
them well. Nay, here I will neither eat nor drink. Do 
you come with me," and he called to certain lords by name 
whom he knew to be faithful to him. 



HOW Z IB ALB AY CAME HOME 211 

Then, without more words, he turned and left the hall, 
followed by a number of the nobles. 

"It seems that my father has forgotten me," said Maya, 
with a laugh, when he had gone. " Greeting to you all, 
friends, and to you, my cousin, Tikal, and greeting also to 
your wife, Nahua, who, once my waiting-lady, by the gift 
of fortune has now been lifted up to take my place and 
title. Whatever may be the issue of these broils, may you 
be happy in each other's love, Tikal and Nahua." 

Now Tikal descended from the throne and bowed before 
her, saying, " I swear to you, Maya " 

" No, do not swear," she broke in, " but give me and 
my friends here a cup of wine and some fragments from 
your wedding -feast, for we are hungry. I thank you. 
How beautiful is that bride's robe which Nahua wears, and 
surely those emeralds were once my own. Well, let her 
take them from me as a wedding-gift. Make room, I pray 
you, Tikal, and suffer these ladies to tell me of their tid- 
ings, for remember that I have wandered far, and it is 
pleasant to see faces that are dear to me." 

For awhile we sat and ate, or made pretence to eat, while 
Maya talked thus lightly and all that company watched us, 
for we were wonderful in their eyes, who never till now 
had seen a white man. Indeed, the sight of the seftor, 
auburn-haired, long-bearded, and white-skinned, was so 
marvellous to them, that, unlike the common people, they 
forgot their courtesy and crowded round him in their 
amazement. Still, there were two who took small note of 
the seflor or of me, and these were Tikal, who gazed at 
Maya as he stood behind her chair serving her like some 
waiting slave, and Nahua his wife, who sat silent and 
neglected on her throne, sullenly noting his every word 
and gesture. At length she could bear this play no longer, 
but, rising from her seat, began to move down the chamber. 

" Make room for the bride, ladies," said Maya. ' ' Cousin, 
good-night, it grows late, and your wife awaits you." 



212 HEART OF THE WORLD 

Then, muttering I know not what, Tikal turned and 
went, and side by side the pair walked down the great 
hall, followed by their guard of soldiers. 

" How beautiful is the bride, and how brave the groom ! " 
said Maya, as she watched them go, "and yet I have seen 
couples that looked happier on their wedding-day. AVell, 
it is time to rest. Friends, good-night. Mattai, I leave 
these stiangers in your keeping. Guard them well and, 
stay, bring them to my apartments to-morrow after they 
have eaten, for if it is my father's will, I would show them 
something of the city before the hour of noon, when we 
meet upon the temple-top." 

AVhen she had gone, Mattai bowed to us with much 
ceremony and begged us to follow him, which we did, 
across the courtyard and through many passages, to a 
beautiful chamber, dimly lighted with silver lamps, that 
had been made ready for us. Here were beds covered with 
silken wrappings, and on a table in the centre of the room 
cool drinks and many sorts of fruits, but so tired were we 
that we took little note of these things. 

Bidding good-night to Mattai, who looked at us curi- 
ously and announced that he would visit us early in the 
morning, we made fast the copper bolts upon the door and 
threw ourselves upon the beds. 

Weary as I was, I could not sleep in this strange place, 
and when, from time to time, my eyes closed, the sound of 
feet passing without our chamber door roused me again to 
wakefulness. Of one thing I was sure, that Zibalbay was 
not wanted here in his own city, and that there would be 
trouble on the morrow when he told his tale to the people, 
for certainly Tikal would not suffer himself easily to be 
thrust from the place he had usurped, and he had many 
friends. Doubtless it was their feet that I heard outside 
the door as they hurried to and fro from the chamber where 
Mattai sat taking counsel with them. What would be our 
fate, I wondered, in this struggle for power that must 



HOW ZI BALE AY CAME HOME 213 

(come ? These people feared strangers so much I could 
read in their faces and doubtless they would be rid of us 
if they might. Well, we had a good friend in Maya, and 
;the rest we must leave to Providence. 

Thinking thus, at length I fell asleep, to be awakened 
by the voice of the sefior, who was sitting upon the edge 
*of his bed, singing a song and looking round the chamber, 
for now the daylight streamed through the lattices. I 
.wished him good-morrow, and asked him why he sang. 

" Because of the lightness of my heart," he answered. 
" We have reached the city at last, and it is far more 
.splendid and wonderful than anything I dreamed of. Also 
the luck is with us, for this Tikal has taken another woman 
in marriage, who, to judge from the look of her, will not 
Teadily let him go, and therefore Maya has no more to fear 
irom him. Thirdly, there is enough treasure in this town, 
if what we saw last night may be taken as a sample, to 
^enable you to establish three Indian Empires, if you wish, 
:and doubtless Zibalbay will give you as much of it as you 
may want. Therefore, friend Ignatio, you should sing, as 
I do, instead of looking as gloomy as though you saw your 
own coffin being brought in at the door." 

I shook my head, and answered : 

" I fear you speak lightly. There is trouble brewing in 
this city, and we shall be drawn into it, for the struggle 
between Tikal and Zibalbay will be to the death. As for 
the Lady Maya, of this I am certain, that wife or no wife 
Tikal still loves her and will strive to take her ; I saw it in 
Ms eyes last night. Lastly, it is true enough that here 
there is boundless wealth ; but whether its owners will suffer 
me to have any portion of it, to forward my great purposes, 
useless though it be to them, is another matter." 

" There was a man in the Bible called Job, and he had 
a friend named Eliphaz, I think you are that friend come 
to life again, Ignatio," answered the sefior, laughing. 
" For my part, I mean to make the best of the present,, and 



214 HEART OF THE WORLD 

not to trouble myself about the future or the politics of 
this benighted people. But hark, there is someone knock- 
ing at the door." 

I rose, and undid the bolt, whereon attendants entered 
bearing goblets of chocolate, and little cakes upon a tray. 
After we had eaten, they led us to the baths, which were 
of marble and very beautiful, one of them being filled with 
water from a warm spring, and then to a chamber, where 
breakfast was made ready for us. While we sat at table, 
Mattai came to us, and I saw that he had not slept that 
night, for his eyes were heavy. 

" I trust that you have rested well, strangers," he said 
courteously. 

(t Yes, lord," I answered. 

" Well, it is more than I have done, for it is my business 
to watch the stars, especially my own star, which just now 
is somewhat obscured," and he smiled. " If you have 
finished your meal, my commands are to lead you to the 
apartments of the Lady Maya, who wishes to show you 
something of our city, which, being strangers, may interest 
you. By the way, if I do not ask too much, perhaps you 
will tell me to what race you belong," and he bowed to- 
wards the seflor. "We have heard of white men here, 
though we have learned no good of them, and tradition 
tells us that our first ruler, Cucumatz, was of this race. 
Are you of his blood, stranger ? " 

" I do not know," answered the seflor, laughing. " I 
come from a cold country far beyond the sea, where all the 
men are as I am." 

" Then the inhabitants of that country must be goodly 
to behold," answered Mattai gravely. " I thank you for 
your courtesy, Son of the Sea, in answering my question so 
readily. I did not ask it from curiosity alone, since the 
people in this city are terrified of strangers, and clamour 
for some account of you." 

" Doubtless our friend Zibalbay will satisfy them/' I said. 



HOW ZIBALBAY CAME HOME 215 

" Good. Now be pleased to follow me," and Mattai led 
us across courts and through passages till we reached a little 
ante-room filled with ancient carvings and decorated with 
flowers, where some girls stood chatting. 

" Tell the Lady Maya that her guests await her," said 
Mattai, then turned to take his departure, adding, in a low 
voice, " doubtless we shall meet at noon upon the pyramid, 
and there you will see I know not what ; but, whatever be- 
falls, be sure of this, strangers, that I will protect you if I 
can. Farewell." 

One of the girls vanished through a doorway at the fur- 
ther end of the chamber, and, having offered us seats, the 
others stood together at a little distance, watching us out 
of the corners of their eyes. Presently the door opened, 
and through it came Maya, wearing a silken serape that 
covered her head and shoulders and looking very sweet and 
beautiful in the shaded light of the room. 

" Greeting, friends," she said, as we bowed before her. 
" I have my father's leave to show you something of this 
city that you longed so much to see. These ladies here will 
accompany us, and a guard, but we shall want no litters un- 
til we have ascended the great temple, for I desire that you 
should see the view from thence before the place is cum- 
bered with the multitude. Come, if you are ready." 

Accordingly we set out, Maya walking between us, while 
her guards and ladies followed after. Crossing the square, 
which had been the scene of the festival of the previous 
night, but now in the early morning was almost deserted, 
we came to the inclosure of the court-yard of the pyramid, 
a limestone wall worked with sculptures of hunting scenes, 
relieved by a border of writhing snakes, and at intervals by 
emblems of the Hear};. At the gateway of this wall we 
paused to contemplate the mighty mass of the pyramid that 
towered above us. There is one in the land of Egypt that 
is bigger, so said the seflor, although he believed this to be 
a more wonderful sight because of its glittering slopes of 



2l6 HEART OF THE WORLD 

limestone, whose expanse was broken only by the vast stair 
that ran up its eastern face from base to summit. 

" It is a great building," said Maya, noting our astonish- 
ment, " and one that could not be reared in these days. 
Tradition says that five-and-twenty thousand men worked 
on it for fifty years twenty thousand of them cutting and 
carrying the stone, and five thousand laying the blocks." 

" Where did the material come from, then ? " asked the 
sefior. 

" Some of it was hewn from beneath the base of the tem- 
ple itself," she answered, "but the most was borne in 
big canoes from quarries on the mainland, for these quar- 
ries can still be seen." 

" Is the pyramid hollow, then ? " I asked. 

" Yes, in it are many chambers, for the most part store 
and treasure houses, and beneath its base lie crypts, the 
burying-place of the caciques, their wives, and children. 
There also is the Holy Sanctuary of the Heart, which you, 
being of the Brotherhood, may perhaps be permitted to visit. 
Come, let us climb the stair," and she led us across the 
court-yard to the foot of a stairway forty feet or more in 
breadth, which ran to the platform of the pyramid in six 
flights, each of fifty steps, and linked together by resting- 
places. 

Up these flights we toiled slowly, followed by the ladies 
and the guard, till at length our labour was rewarded, and 
we stood upon the dizzy edge of the pyramid. Before us 
was a platform bordered by a low wall, large enough to 
give standing room to several thousand people. On the 
western side of this platform stood a small marble house, 
used as a place to store fuel, and as a watch-tower by the 
priests, who were on duty day and night, tending the 
sacred fire which flared in a brazier from its roof. Sit- 
uated at some distance from this house, and immediately 
in front of it, was a small altar wreathed with flowers, but 
for the rest the area was empty. 



HOW ZIBALBAY CAME HOME 2 1/ 

" Look/* said Maya. 

The city beneath us was built upon a low, heart-shaped 
island, so hollow in its centre that once it might have been 
the crater of some volcano, or perhaps a mere ridge of land 
inclosing a lagoon. This island measured about ten miles 
in length by six across at its widest, and seemed to float 
like a huge green leaf upon the lake, the Holy Waters of 
these Indians, of which the circumference is so great 
that even from the summit of the pyramid, a few small 
and rocky islets excepted, land was only visible to the 
north, whence we had sailed on the previous night. Else- 
where the eye met nothing but blue expanses of inland sea, 
limitless and desolate, unrelieved by any sail or sign of 
life. Amidst these waters the island gleamed like an em- 
erald. Here were gardens filled with gorgeous flowers and 
clumps of beautiful palms and willows, framed by banks 
of dense green reeds that grew in the shallows around the 
shores. So luxuriant was the vegetation, fertilised year by 
year with the rich mud of the lake, and so lovely were the 
trees and flowers in the soft light of the morning, that the 
place seemed like a paradise rather than a home of men ; 
and as was the island, so was the city that was built upon 
one end of it. 

Following the lines of the land upon which it stood, it 
was heart-shaped a heart of cold, white marble lying with- 
in a heart of glowing green. All about it ran a moat filled 
with water from the lake, and on the hither side of this 
moat stood a wall fifty feet or more in height, built of great 
blocks of white limestone that formed the bed-rock of the 
island, which wall was everywhere sculptured with allego- 
rical devices and designs, and the gigantic figures of gods. 
Within the oblong of this wall lay the city ; a city of pal- 
aces, pyramids, and temples, or rather the remains of it, 
for we could see at a glance that the population was unable 
to keep so many streets and edifices in repair. Thus palm- 
trees were to be found growing through the flat roofs of 



218 HEART OF THE WORLD 

houses, and in crevices of the temple-pyramids, while many 
of the streets and avenues were green with grass and ferns, 
a narrow pathway in the centre of them showing how few 
were the feet of the passers-by. Even in the great square 
beneath us the signs of traffic were rare, and there was little 
of the bustle of a people engaged in the business of life, 
although this very place had been the scene of last night's 
feast, and would again soon be filled with men and women 
flocking to the pyramid. Now and again some graceful, 
languid girl, a reed basket in her hand, might be seen vis- 
iting the booths, where rations of fish from the lake, or of 
meal, fruit, dried venison, and cocoa, were distributed ac- 
cording to the wants of each family. Or perhaps a party 
of men, on their way to labour in the gardens, stopped to 
smoke and talk together in a fashion that showed time to 
be of little value to them. Here and there also a few a 
very few children played together with flowers for toys in 
the shadow of the palaces, barracks, and store-houses which 
bordered the central square ; but this was all, for the rest 
the place seemed empty and asleep. 



CHAPTER XVI 

OK THE PYRAMID 

" DOES not the city lie very low ? " I asked of Maya, when 
we had studied the prospect on every side. ' ' To my eye 
its houses seem almost upon a level with the waters of the 
lake." 

"I believe that is so," she answered. " Moreover, dur- 
ing those months of the year that are coming, the surface 
of the lake rises many feet, so that the greater part of the 
island is submerged and the water stands about the wall." 

" How, then, do you prevent the town from being 



ON THE PYRAMID 

flooded ?" asked the sefior. " If once the water flowed in, 
the place would vanish and every soul be drowned." 

" Yes, friend, but the waters never rise beyond a certain 
height, and they are kept from flooding the city by the 
great sluice-gate. If that gate were to be opened in the 
time of inundation, then we should perish, every one. But 
it never is opened during those months, for if any would 
leave or enter the city they do so by means of ladders 
leading from the summit of the wall to floating landing- 
stages on the moat beneath. Also night and day the gate 
is guarded ; moreover, it can be moved from one place 
only by those that know its secret, who are few." 

" It seems a strange place to build a city," answered 
the senor. " I do not think that I should ever sleep sound 
during the months of inundation, knowing that my life 
depended upon a single gate." 

" Yet men have slept safely here for a thousand years or 
more," she said. " Legend tells us that our ancestors who 
came up from the coast in ancient days settled on the isl- 
and by command of their gods, choosing this holloAV bed 
of land to build in, so that rather than submit themselves to 
foes, as their fathers were forced to do in the country be- 
yond the mountains, they could, if need were, flood the 
place and perish in the water. For this reason it is that 
the holy sanctuary of the Nameless god, the Heart of 
Heaven, is hollowed deep in the rock beneath us, for the 
waters of the lake would flow in upon it at a touch, bury- 
ing it and all its treasures from the sight of man for ever. 
Now, if you have seen enough, I will take you to visit the 
public workshops where fish is dried, linen woven, and all 
other industries carried on that are necessary to our com- 
fort," and, turning, she led the way with her ladies 
towards the head of the stairs. 

As we drew near to it, however, three men appeared 
upon the platform, in one of whom I knew Tikal. Seeing 
Maya he advanced toward her, boAving as he came. 



220 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" Lady," he said, "learning that you were here with 
these strangers, I have followed you to beg that you will 
speak with me alone for some few minutes/' 

" That I cannot do, cousin/' she answered coldly, " for 
who knows what colour might afterwards be put upon my 
words. If you have anything to say to me, say it before 
us all." 

" That / cannot do," he replied, " for what I have to 
say is secret. Still, for your father's sake, and perhaps for 
your own, you will do well to hear it." 

" Without a witness I will not listen to you, Tikal." 

" Then, Lady, farewell," he said, and turned to go. 

"Stay, cousin. If you fear to speak before our own 
people, let this stranger " and she pointed to me, Ignatio 
" be present at our talk. He is of our blood, and can 
understand our tongue, a discreet man, moreover, one of 
the Brethren of the Heart." 

" One of the Brethren of the Heart ? How can a stran- 
ger be a Brother of the Heart ? Prove it to me, wan- 
derer." 

And, drawing me aside, he said certain words, which I 
answered, giving him the signs. 

" Do you agree ? " asked Maya. 

' ' Yes, Lady, since I must, though it pleases me little to 
open my mind before a stranger. Let us step apart," and 
he walked to the centre of the platform, followed by Maya 
and myself. 

" Lady," he began, " my business with you is not easy 
to tell. For many years we were affianced, and both you 
and your father promised that we should be wed when you 
returned from this journey ; 

" Surely, as things are, cousin, it is needless to discuss 
the matter of our betrothal," she broke in with sarcasm. 

" Not altogether needless, Lady," he answered. " I have 
much to ask your pardon for, yet I make bold to ask it. 
Maya, you know well that I have loved and love you 



ON THE PYRAMID 221 

dearly, and that no other woman has ever been near my 
heart/' 

" Indeed/' she said with a laugh, ' ' these words sound 
strange in the mouth of the new-made husband of Nahua." 

" Perhaps, Lady, and yet they are true. I am married 
to Nahua, but I do not love her, though she loves me. It 
is you whom I love, and when I saw you yesterday all my 
heart went out to you, so that I almost hated the fair 
bride at my side." 

" Why, then, did you marry her ? " 

" Because I must, and because I believed you dead, and 
your father with you, as did every man in the city. You 
and Zibalbay being dead, as I thought, was it wonderful 
that I should wish to keep the place that many were plot- 
ting to take from me ? This could be done in one way 
only, by the help of Mattai, the most clever and the most 
powerful man in the city, and this was Mattai's price, that 
his daughter should become the Lady of the Heaft. Well, 
she loved me, she is beautiful, and she has her father's 
strength and foresight, so that among all the ladies in the 
land there was none more fitted to be my wife." 

" Well, and you married her, and there's an end. You 
ask my forgiveness, and you have it, seeing that it does not 
befit me to play the part of a jealous woman. Doubtless 
time will soften the blow to me, Tikal," she added, mock- 
ingly. 

" There is not an end, Maya, and I come to ask you to- 
day to renew your promise that you will be my wife." 

" What, cousin ! Having broken your troth, would you 
now offer me insult ? Do you then propose that I, the 
Daughter of the Heart, should be Nahua's handmaid ?" 

" No, I propose that when Nahua is put away you should 
take her place and your own." 

" How can this be, seeing that the Lady of the Heart 
cannot be divorced ?" 

" If she ceases to be the Lady of the Heart she can be 



HEART OF THE WORLD 

divorced like any other woman ; at the least, love has no 
laws, and I will find a way." 

"The way of death, perhaps. No, I will have none of 
you. Honour has laws, Tikal, if love has none. Go back 
to your wife, and pray that she may never learn how you 
would have treated her." 

" Is that your last word, Lady ? " 

"Why do you ask ?" 

" Because more hangs on it than you know. Listen : 
Very soon all the men in the city will be gathered on this 
place to hear your father's words, and to decide whether he 
or I shall rule. See, already they assemble in the temple 
square. Promise to be my wife, and in return I will yield 
to your father and he shall be master for his life's days and 
have his way in all things. Refuse, and I will cling to 
power, and matters may go badly for him, for you, and " 
he added threateningly, " for these strangers, your friends." 

" All this must befall as it chances," she answered 
proudly, "I do not meddle with such questions, nor do 
your threats move me. If you are so base as to plot mis- 
chief against an old man who has poured benefits upon you, 
plot on, and in due time meet with your reward, but for 
myself I tell you that I have done with you, and that, come 
what may, I will never be your wife." 

"Perhaps you may yet live to take back those words, 
Lady," he said in a quiet voice ; then, with a low obeisance, 
he turned and went. 

" You have made a dangerous enemy, Lady, "I said, when 
he was out of earshot. 

" I do not fear him, Ignatio." 

"That is well," I answered, "but for my part I do. I 
think that his plans are ready, and that before this day is 
done there will be trouble. Indeed, I shall be thankful if 
we live to see to-morrow's light." 

By this time we had reached the others. 

" Are you weary of waiting ? " she said to the seflor, 



ON THE PYRAMID 22 3 

giving him a sweet look as she spoke. (i Well, I should 
have been happier here than I was yonder. Give me your 
hand and lead me down the stair, for I am tired. Ah, 
friend, did you but know it, I have just dared more for 
your sake than I should have done for my own." 

" What have you dared ? " he asked. 

" That you will learn in due time, if we live long enough, 
friend," she answered, "but., oh! I would that we had 
never set foot within this city." 

Two hours had passed, and, following in the train of Zi- 
balbay and Maya, who walked beside him, once more we 
found ourselves upon the summit of the pyramid. Now, 
however, it was no longer empty, for on it were collected 
men to the number of some thousands ; indeed, all the 
adult male population of the city. On one side of the altar 
were seated Tikal, his bride Nahua, who was the only 
woman there, and some hundreds of nobles, all of whom, I 
noted, were armed and guarded by a body of soldiers that 
stood behind them. On the other side were many vacant 
places ; and as Zibalbay, with Maya and all the great com- 
pany of followers that he had gathered, advanced to take 
them, Tikal and every man present on the pyramid un- 
covered their heads and bowed in greeting to him. 

After a few moments' pause, two priests came forward 
from the watch-house behind the altar, and, having laid 
upon it an offering of fresh flowers, the elder of them, who 
was robed in pure white, uttered a short prayer to the 
Nameless god, the Heart of Heaven, asking that he would 
be pleased to accept the gift, and to send a blessing upon 
the deliberations of his people here assembled. Then 
Zibalbay rose to address the multitude, and I noted that 
his fierce face was pale and anxious, and that his hand 
shook, although his eyes flashed angrily : 

". Nobles and people of the City of the Heart," he began, 
"on this day a year ago, I, your hereditary ruler and 



224 HEART OF THE WORLD 

cacique, and the high-priest of the Heart of Heaven, left 
this city on a certain mission. This was my mission : To 
find the severed portion of the sacred symbol that lies in 
the sanctuary of the temple, the portion that is called 
Day, which has been lost for many an age. You know 
that our race has fallen upon evil times, and that, year by 
year, our numbers dwindle, till at length the end of the 
people is in sight, seeing that within some few generations 
they must die out and be forgotten. You know also the 
ancient prophecy, that when once more the two halves of 
the Symbol of the Heart, Day and Night, are laid side by 
side, in their place upon the altar in the sanctuary, then, 
from that hour, this people shall grow great again ; and 
you know how a voice spoke to me, in answer to my pray- 
ers, bidding me, Zibalbay, to wander forth from the 
country of the Heart, following the road to the sea, for 
there I should find that which was lost. 

"Thither, then, having won the permission of my Coun- 
cil, the Brotherhood of the Heart, I have wandered alone 
with my daughter, the Lady Maya, suffering much hard- 
ship and danger in my journey ings, and lo ! I have found 
that which was lost, and brought it back to you, for here 
it hangs upon the neck of this Ignatio, who has accom- 
panied me from the lands beyond the desert." 

Now a murmur of astonishment went up from the mul- 
titude, and Zibalbay paused awhile. 

" Of this matter of the finding of the symbol/' he con- 
tinued, " I will speak more fully at the proper time, and 
to those who have a right to hear it, namely, to the elected 
Brotherhood of the Heart, in the holy Sanctuary, on the 
day of the Eising of Waters, being one of the eight days 
in each year on which it is lawful for the Council of the 
Heart to meet in the Sanctuary. But first in this hour I 
will deal with other questions. 

" It is known to you that, when I went upon my mis- 
sion, I left my nephew Tikal to sit in my place, it being 



ON THE PYRAMID 225 

agreed between us and the Council that if I should return 
no more within two years he should become cacique of the 
people. I have returned within one year, and I find this : 
That already he has allowed himself to be anointed ca- 
cique, and more; that he, who was affianced to my daugh- 
ter, has taken another woman to be his wife. Last night 
with my own ears I heard him proclaim his treachery in 
the hall of the palace, and when I spoke out the bitterness 
that was in my heart, I, your lord, was met with threats, 
and told that Tikal, having been anointed, could not 
now be deposed. I use the saying against him. Nobles, 
have I not been anointed, and ruled over you and the 
people for many years, and can I then be deposed, I, who 
am not a traitor to my master, nor a forswearer of my 
oaths, as is my nephew yonder ? " 

Again he paused, and some of the audience, with those 
who had accompanied Zibalbay, shouted " No ; " but the 
most of them looked towards Tikal and were silent. Now 
Mattai rose from his place behind Tikal and spoke, saying : 

" As one who had to do with the anointing of Tikal to 
be cacique when we believed you and the Lady Maya to 
be dead, I would ask you, Zibalbay, before we on this side 
of the altar answer you, to tell us openly what is the mean- 
ing of this journey that you have undertaken, and for 
what purpose you have brought these two strangers, who 
are named Ignatio and Son of the Sea, with you, in defi- 
ance of the ancient law, which says that he who brings a 
stranger across the mountains into the land of the City of 
the Heart shall die, together with the stranger." 

Now, when Zibalbay heard this question he started, for 
he had forgotten this law, and saw the cunning trap that 
Mattai had spread for his feet. Nevertheless he answered 
boldly, since it was his nature to be outspoken and straight- 
forward. 

" It becomes you ill, Mattai, to question me, you who 
have proved yourself a plotter and a lying prophet, reading 



226 HEART OF THE WORLD 

in the stars that I and my daughter were dead, while we 
still draw the breath of life beneath them. Yet I will an- 
swer you, and, scorning subterfuge or falsehood, set out 
the whole matter in the hearing of the people, that they 
may judge between me, your party, and your master. 
First, I will say that I had forgotten the law of which you 
speak, whereof I have broken the letter, or, if at any time 
I remembered it, my necessities caused me to disregard it. 
Learn, then, that the stranger Ignatio is of royal Indian 
blood, and the holder of that symbol which I went forth to 
seek, and that the white man whom you call Son of the 
Sea is as a brother to him, and that both of them are of 
the fellowship of the Heart, the Lord Ignatio being no 
less a man than the master of the order in yonder lands, as 
I am here. This Lord Ignatio I summoned to me, and he 
came. He came, and with his companion, Son of the Sea, 
saved me and my daughter from shame and death at the 
hands of certain murderers, white men. Then, when we 
had escaped, we tried each other, and laid the symbols side 
by side, and, lo ! Day and Night came together and they 
were one. Then, also, I told him the story of how it hap- 
pened that I was wandering far from my own place, and he 
told me what was his purpose and the desire of his life. 
" This is his purpose to break the yoke that the white 
man has set upon the neck of the Indians in the far lands, 
and to build up a mighty Indian nation stretching from 
sea to sea, whereof this city, Heart of the World, shall 
be the centre and the capital. Then we made a com- 
pact together, a compact that cannot be broken, and it 
was this : That the Lord Ignatio, with the Avhite man, his 
companion, from whom he will not be separated, should 
accompany us here, where the symbols should be set in the 
appointed place, that the prophecy may be fulfilled and 
fortune return to us : That I should give to him so much 
as he may need of the treasures which lie useless in our 
storehouses, wherewith he may arm troops and bring about 



ON THE PYRAMID 22? 

his ends, and that in return he should bring to us what we 
need far more than gold and gems men and women with 
whom we may intermarry, so that our race, ceasing to 
dwindle, may once again multiply and grow great. 

" Such, nobles, is our compact, and this is the path which 
the god who rules us has pointed out for our feet to tread. 
Accept it and grow great refuse it and perish. For know 
that not for myself do I speak, who am old and near to 
death, but for you and your posterity for ever. Be not 
bewildered or amazed, for, though these things are new to 
you, it may well chance that after the Council of the Heart 
has been celebrated in the Sanctuary on the night of the 
Eising of Waters, the god whom we worship, the Name- 
less god under whose guidance all these things have 
come about, will reveal his purpose by the mouth of his 
oracle, and show what part these strangers and each of us 
shall play in the fate that is to be. Oh ! nobles, and my 
people, let not your sight be dimmed nor your heart hard- 
ened, and put not away the fortune and the future that lie 
before you. I have dared much for your sake ; dare a 
little for your own. Shut your ears and your gates and 
rise in rebellion against me, and I tell you that soon there 
shall remain of you and of your glorious home scarcely a 
memory ; but be gentle and be guided by my wisdom and 
the will of your gods, and your fame and power shall cover 
the world ; ay ! you shall be to what you were as is the sun 
in all its glory to some faint and fading star. I have 
spoken now choose/' 

He ceased and for a while there was silence, the silence 
of amaze, for the nobles stared each on each, and such of 
the common people as were within earshot stood gaping at 
him with open mouths, since to them who did not meddle 
in matters of polity, and, indeed, thought little for them- 
selves, his words had small meaning. Presently it was 
broken, and by Tikal, who sprang from his seat and cried 
aloud : 



228 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" Of a truth they were wise who said that this old man 
was mad. Have you heard and understood, people of 
the Heart ? This is what you must do to fulfil the will of 
Zibalbay : First, you must set him in his place again, giv- 
ing him all power, and me you must condemn to death or 
chains ; next, you must pardon him his breaches of the law, 
the law that he of all men was bound to keep. Then you 
must hand over your treasures the treasures hoarded by 
your forefathers for many a generation to these wandering 
thieves whom he has brought with him ; and, lastly, you 
must open your gates, which have been kept secret for a 
thousand years, to other thieves that they shall lead here, to 
whom, forsooth, you must give your women in marriage 
that the race may be increased. Say, will you do these 
things, children of the Heart ? " 

Now all the nobles who stood behind Tikal shouted 
"Never I" and the people beyond took up the cry with a 
voice of thunder, though the most of them understood 
little of what was passing. 

Tikal held up his hand, and there was silence; 

" You will not do them," he said, " and base indeed were 
you had you answered otherwise. What, then, will you do ? 
Tell me, first, whom do you choose as your ruler, my uncle, 
who now is mad and would bring you to shame and ruin ; 
or me, who have sworn to preserve your ancient laws ? " 

" "We choose you, Tikal, Tikal ! " came the answer. 

"I thank you," he cried, "but what then shall be done 
with this old man, and those whom he has brought with 
him to spy out our secrets and to rob us ? " 

" Kill them before the altar ! " they shouted, waving 
their swords. 

Tikal thought for a moment, then pointed towards us 
and said, 

" Seize these men/* 

At his word a hundred or more of the nobles, who evi- 
dently had been instructed to execute his orders, rushed 



ON THE PYRAMID 229 

at us suddenly. As they came across the open space I saw 
the sefior put his hand to his belt, and said to him : 

" For the love of God ! do not strike, for should you 
touch one of them they will certainly kill us." 

" That they will do in any case, but as you wish," he 
answered. 

Then they broke on us. As they came, all those nobles 
who had followed Zibalbay to the crest of the pyramid 
gave way before their rush, leaving the three of us and 
the Lady Maya standing alone. 

" Cowards ! " said Zibalbay, glancing behind him. Then 
he drew his machete and with a shout cut down the fore- 
most of those who assailed us a great noble. In another 
instant the weapon was struck from him, and the seiior 
and I were being dragged towards the altar, followed by 
Zibalbay and the Lady Maya, upon whom, however, our 
assailants laid no hand. 

" What shall we do with these men ? " cried Tikal again. 

And again the nobles answered, " Kill them ! " 

So they threw us down, and men came at us with swords 
to make an end of us, which indeed they would have done 
quickly, had not the Lady Maya sprung forward, and, stand- 
ing over the seiior, cried, " Hold ! " in so piercing a voice 
that they stayed their hands. 

" Listen, people of the Heart/' she said, " would you do 
murder upon your oAvn holy altar, staining it with the blood 
of innocent men ? You talk of broken laws. Is there not 
a law in the city that none can be put to death except after 
trial before the cacique and his Council ? Have these men 
been tried, and if so, by whom ? You say that my father, 
your lawful ruler, is deposed. If that is so, not Tikal, but 
I, who am his heir, rule in his stead, and I have passed no 
judgment on them." 

Now at her words there was a murmur of mingled doubt 
and applause, but Tikal answered her, saying : 

" Lady, the law you quote holds good for you, for your 



230 HEART OF THE WORLD 

father, and for every citizen of the Heart, however humble ; 
but in the case of these men it does not hold, for they are 
wandering strangers and spies, who can claim no protection 
from our justice, and therefore it is right that they should 
die/' 

" It is not right that they should die/' she answered pas- 
sionately. " You, Tikal, have usurped my father's place, 
and now you would celebrate the beginning of your rule by 
a deed of the foulest murder. I tell you that these men are 
innocent of all offence. If any are guilty it is my father and 
I, and if any should suffer we should suffer. More," she 
went on, with flashing eyes, " if these men to whom we have 
sworn safe-conduct must die, then for my part I will die 
with them, and Avhether I pass by your hands or by my own, 
may the curse of my blood rest upon you for ever and for 
ever." 

As she spoke she snatched a knife from her jewelled 
girdle, and stood before them, its bare blade glittering in 
the sunlight, looking so beautiful and fierce that the nobles 
fell back from her, and hundreds of the people applauded, 
saying : 

" Hear the Lady Maya, and obey her. She is cacique, 
and no other." 

Now Zibalbay, who had covered his eyes with his hands, 
looked up and said : 

" You are right, daughter. Since the people reject us, 
and we cannot even protect our guests, it is best that we 
should die with them," and once more he covered his eyes 
with his hands. 

Then there came a pause and a sound of whispering. I 
looked up between the sword-blades which were pointed at 
my throat, and saw that Nahua was standing at the side of 
her lord, and pleading with him. They were so close to 
me that my hearing, always keen, being sharpened more- 
over by the fear of instant death, enabled me to catch some 
of their talk. 



ON THE PYRAMID 231 

" She will do what she says," said Nahua, " and that will 
be your ruin ; for if her father is hated, she is beloved, and 
many will arise to avenge her." 

" Why should she kill herself because of a white wander- 
er ?" he asked. 

Nahua shrugged her shoulders, and smiled darkly, as she 
answered : 

" Who can tell ; he is her friend, and women have been 
known to give their lives for their friends. Do as you will, 
but if Maya dies I do not think that we shall live to see 
another dawn," and, leaving his side, she sought her chair 
again. 

Now Tikal looked at the sefior, who was stretched upon 
the ground beside me, and seeing that there was hate in his 
eyes I trembled, thinking that the end had come, then 
turned my head aside, and began to commend my soul to 
the care of Heaven. As I prayed he spoke, addressing him- 
self to Maya : 

" Lady," he said, "you have appealed to the law on behalf 
of these wanderers, of your father, and of yourself, and by 
the law you shall be dealt with. To-morrow the judges 
shall be chosen, and hold their court here before the 
people." 

" It cannot be, Tikal," she answered calmly, " there is but 
one court which can try us four, all of whom are Brethren 
of the Heart, and that is the Council of the Heart sitting 
in the Sanctuary, which assembles on the eighth day from 
now, on the night of the Rising of AVaters. Is it not so, 
nobles ? " 

" If you are of the number of the Brethren of the Heart, 
all of you, it is so," they answered. 

" So be it," said Tikal ; " but till then I must hold you in 
safe-keeping. Will it please you to follow Mattai, Lady, 
and you, my Lord Zibalbay. Guards, bring these men to 
the watch-house yonder, and keep them there till I come to 
you." 



232 HEART OF THE WORLD 

Maya bowed, and, turning to the audience, she said in a 
clear voice, " Farewell, my people. If we are seen no more 
you will know that my father and I have been done to 
death by Tikal, who has usurped our place, and to you I 
leave it to take vengeance for our blood." 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE CUESE OF ZIBALBAT 

THANKFUL enough was I to rise from the ground feeling 
my life whole in me. 

" Death has been near to us," said the senor with some- 
thing between a sob and a laugh, as we followed Zibalbay 
and Maya into the guard-house. 

" He is near to us still," I answered, " but at least, un- 
less Tikal changes his mind, we have won some days of 
respite." 

" Thanks to her," he said, nodding towards Maya, and 
as he spoke we entered the guard-house, a small chamber 
with a massive door, somewhat roughly furnished. 

So soon as we were in, the door was shut upon us, and 
we found ourselves alone. Zibalbay sat himself down, and, 
fixing his eyes upon the wall, stared at it as though it 
offered no hindrance to his sight, but the rest of us stood 
together near the door, listening to the turmoil of the mul- 
titude without. Clearly argument ran high among them, 
for we could hear the sound of angry voices, of shouting, 
and of the hurrying footfalls of the people leaving the 
pyramid by way of the great stair. 

" You have saved our lives for a while, for which we owe 
you thanks," said the sen or to Maya presently, " but tell 
me, what will they do with us now ? " 



THE CURSE OF Z1BALBAY 233 

" I cannot say/' she answered, " but in this pyramid are 
chambers where we shall be hidden away until our day of 
trial. At the least I think so, for they dare not let us out 
among the people, lest we should cause a tumult in the 
city." 

Before the words had left her lips the door was opened, 
and through it came Tikal, Mattai, and other of the great 
lords who were hostile to Zibalbay. 

" What is your pleasure with us ? " asked Zibalbay, 
awaking from his dream. 

" That you should follow me," answered Tikal sternly, 
" you and the others," adding, with a low bow to Maya, 
" forgive me, Lady, that I must exercise this violence 
towards you and your father, but I have no other choice 
if I would save you from the vengeance of the people." 

"It is not the vengeance of the people that we have to 
fear, Tikal," she answered quietly, " but rather your 
hate." 

"Which it is in your power to appease, lady," he said in 
a low voice. 

"It may be in my power, but it is not in my will," she 
answered, setting her lips. " Come, cousin, take us to the 
dungeon that you have prepared for us." 

" As you wish," he said ; " follow me." And he led the 
way across the guard-house, through a sleeping-chamber of 
the priests that lay behind it, to the further wall that was 
hidden by a curtain. 

This curtain, on being drawn, revealed a small stone 
door, which Mattai, having first lit some lamps that stood 
ready in the chamber, unlocked with a key which hung at 
his girdle. One by one we passed through the door, Tikal 
preceding us, and Mattai, with others of the great lords, to 
the number of six, following after us. Beyond the door 
lay a flight of twenty steps, then came a gate of copper 
bars. On the further side of this gate were flight upon 
flight of steps, joined together by landings, and running, 



234 HEART OF THE WORLD 

now in this direction now in that, into the bowels of the 
mighty pyramid. At length, when my limbs were weary 
of descending so many stairs, we found ourselves in front 
of other gates, larger and more beautifully worked than 
those that we had already passed. Presently they clanged 
behind us, and we stood in a vast apartment or hall that 
was built in the heart of the pyramid. It would seem that 
this hall had been made ready for our coming, for it was 
lighted with many silver lamps, and in one part of it rugs 
were laid and on them stood tables and seats. So great was 
the place that the light of the lamps shone in it only as 
stars shine in the sky, still, as we passed down it, we saw 
that its roof was vaulted, and that its walls and floor were 
of white marble finely polished. Once, as we learned after- 
wards, it had served as the assembly-rooms for the priests 
of the temple, but now that they were so few it was not 
used, except from time to time as a prison for offenders of 
high rank. At intervals along its length were doors lead- 
ing to sleeping and other chambers. Some of the doors 
were open, and as we passed them Mattai told us that these 
were to be our bed-chambers. Then, having announced 
that food would be brought to us, the nobles, headed by 
Tikal, withdrew, and we heard the copper gates clash and 
the echo of their footsteps die into nothingness upon the 
endless stairs. 

For a while we stood staring at each other in silence. It 
was Zibalbay who broke it, and his voice rang strangely in 
the vaulted place. 

" It is his hour now," he said, shaking his fists towards 
the stair by which Tikal had left us, " but let him pray 
that mine may never come," and suddenly he turned and, 
walking to a couch, flung himself upon it and buried his 
face in his hands. 

Maya followed him and, bending down, strove to comfort 
him, but he waved her away and she came back to us. 

"This is a gloomy place," said the seflor, in a half 



THE CURSE OF ZIBALBA Y 235 

whisper, for here one scarcely dared to speak aloud because 
of the echoes that ran about the walls, " but, dark though 
it is, it seems safer than the summit of the pyramid, where 
sword-points are so many," and he pointed to a little cut 
upon his throat. 

" It is safe enough/' Maya answered, with a bitter laugh, 
" and safely will it keep our bones till the world's end, for 
through those gates and the men that guard them there is 
no escape, and the death that threatened us in the sunshine 
shall overtake us in the shadow. Did I not warn you 
against this mad quest and the seeking of the city of my 
people ? I warned you both, and you would not listen, and 
now the trouble is at hand and your lives will pay the for- 
feit for your folly and my father's." 

" What must be, must be," answered the senor with a 
sigh, " but for my part I hope that the worst is past and 
that they will not kill us. It was your father's rashness 
which brought these evils on us, and perhaps misfortune 
may teach him wisdom." 

" Never," she answered, shaking her head, " for they are 
right ; on this matter he is mad, as you, Ignatio, are mad 
also. Come, let us look at our prison, for I have not seen 
it till this hour," and, taking one of the hand-lamps that 
stood near, she walked down the length of the hall. At its 
further end were gates similar to those by which we had 
entered, and through them came a draught of air. 

< ' Where do they lead ? " I asked. 

"I do not know," she answered, "perhaps to the Sanc- 
tuary by a secret way. At least the pyramid is full of these 
chambers, that in old days were used for many things, such 
as the storage of corn and weapons, and the burying-places 
of priests, thousands of whom are at rest within it. Now 
they are empty and deserted." 

As we walked back again I stopped before a wooden 
door that stood ajar, leading into one of the chambers of 
which I have spoken. 



236 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" Let us go in," said Maya, pushing it open, and we en- 
tered, to find ourselves in a small room lined with shelves. 
On these shelves, each of which was numbered, lay hundreds 
of rolls thickly covered with dust. Maya took up one of 
them at a hazard and unrolled the parchment, revealing a 
manuscript beautifully executed in the picture-painting of 
the Indians. 

" This must be nearly a thousand years old/' she said ; 
" I know it by the style of the painting. Well, we shall 
not lack history to read while we sojourn here," and she 
threw the priceless roll back on to its shelf and left the 
chamber. 

A few steps further on we came to another room of which 
the door was closed, but so rotten was the woodwork with 
age that a push freed it from its fastenings, and we entered. 
Here also there were shelves, packed some of them with 
yellow and some with white bars of metal. 

" Copper and lead," said the sefior glancing at them. 

" Not so," answered Maya with a laugh, " but that which 
you white men covet, gold and silver. Look what is painted 
above the shelves," and she held up the lamp and read : 
" Pure metal from the southern mines, set apart for the 
service of the Temple of the Heart, and of the Temples of 
the East and West. Of gold such a weight ; of silver 
such a weight." 

I stared and my eyes grew greedy, for here in this one 
room, neglected and forgotten, was enough wealth to carry 
out my purpose three times over, stored there by the fore- 
fathers of this strange rust-eaten race. Ah, if only I could 
see one half of it safe across the mountains, how great 
might be my future and that of the people which I lived 
to serve. 

" Perhaps you may win it after all, Ignatio," said Maya, 
interpreting my thoughts, " but, to be frank, I fear that 
you will gain nothing except a sepulchre in these gloomy 
vaults." 



THE CURSE OF ZIBALBAY 237 

After this we visited several chambers that were empty, 
or filled only with the wreck of moth-eaten tapestries and 
curious furnitures, till at length we came to a room, or 
rather a large cupboard, piled from floor to ceiling with 
golden vessels of the most quaint and ancient workman- 
ship, which had been discarded by the priests and cast 
aside as worthless, why, I do not know. In front of this 
gleaming pile stood a chest, unlocked, that the sen or 
opened. It was packed with priestly ornaments of gold, 
set with great emeralds. Maya picked out a belt from the 
box and gave it to me, saying : 

" Take it, Ignatio, since you love such trinkets. It will 
set off that robe of yours." 

I took it and put it on, not over my robe,' but beneath it. 
My friend, it is the clasp of that belt, which now is yours, 
that I showed you a while ago, and with the price of 
the other gems in it I bought this hacienda and all its 
lands. 

Wearied at length by the sight of so much useless treas- 
ure, we returned to Zibalbay, who was seated as we had 
left him, lost in thought. 

At this moment the gates of our prison were opened, and 
men came through them, escorted by captains of the 
guard, bringing with them food in plenty, which they set 
upon the table, waiting on us while we ate, but speaking no 
word, good or bad. Our meal finished, they cleared away 
the fragments, and, having replenished the lamps and pre- 
pared the chambers for us to sleep in, they bowed and left 
us. For a while we sat round the table, Zibalbay and I in 
silence, and Maya and the senor talking together in a low 
voice, till at length the dreariness of the place overcame 
us, and, as though by a common impulse, we rose and 
sought the sleeping-vaults, there to rest, if we might. 

We slept, and woke, and rose again, though whether it 
was night or day here, where no light came, we could not 
tell ; indeed, as time went on, our only means of distin- 



238 HEART OF THE WORLD 

guishing the one from the other was by the visits of those 
who brought our food and waited on us. 

I think it must have been in the early afternoon of the 
day following that on which we were imprisoned, that 
Tikal visited us, accompanied only by four guards. 

"A small band," said the seflor as he watched them 
advance, " but enough to put us to death, who are un- 
armed" (for all our weapons had been taken from us), 
" if such should be their will." 

" Have no fear, friend/' said Maya, " they will not do 
murder so openly." 

By now Tikal stood before us, bowing, and Zibalbay, 
who as usual was seated brooding at the table, looked up 
and saw him. ' 

"AVhat do you seek, traitor?" he asked angrily, the 
blood flushing beneath his withered skin. " Would you 
kill us ? If so, slay on, for thus shall I come the sooner 
to the bosom of that god whose vengeance I call down upon 
you." 

" I am no murderer, Zibalbay," answered Tikal with 
dignity. " If you die, it will be by the command of the 
law that you have broken, and not by mine. I am here 
to speak with you, if you will come apart with me." 

" Then speak on before these others, or leave your words 
unsaid," he answered, "for not one step will I stir with 
you, who doubtless seek some opportunity to stab me in 
the back." 

" Yet it is necessary that you should hear what I have 
to say, Zibalbay." 

" Say on then, traitor, or go." 

Tikal thought for a while, looking doubtfully at Maya, 
from whose fair face, indeed, he rarely took his eyes. 

"Is it your wish that I should withdraw ?" she asked 
shortly. 

" It is not mine," said Zibalbay ; " stay where you are, 
daughter." 



THE CURSE OF ZIBALBAY 239 

Now Tikal hesitated no longer, but, bidding the guards 
who had accompanied him to fall back out of earshot, he 
said : 

" Listen, Zibalbay ; yesterday, before the gathering on 
the pyramid, I saw your daughter, the Lady Maya, and 
spoke with her, telling her that now, as always, I loved 
her, although, believing her to be dead, for reasons of 
state I had taken another woman to be my wife. Then I 
made her this offer : That if she would consent to become 
my wife I would put away Nahua, whom I had married. 
Moreover, I added this, that I would give up my place as 
cacique to you, Zibalbay, whose it is by right, to hold for so 
long as you should live, and would not oppose you or your 
policy in any matter. I told her, on the other hand, that 
if she refused to become my wife, I would surrender noth- 
ing, but would put out my strength to crush you and her 
and these strangers, your friends. She answered me with 
contempt, saying that I might do my worst, but she would 
have naught to say to me. What happened afterwards you 
know, Zibalbay, and you know also the danger in which 
you stand to-day, now that power has left you, and your 
very life trembles in the balance/* 

He paused, and Zibalbay, who had been listening to his 
words amazed, turned to Maya and said sternly : 

" Does this man speak lies, daughter ? " 

As she was about to answer, though what she meant to 
say I do not know, Tikal broke in : 

" What is the use of asking her, Zibalbay ? Is it to be 
thought that she will answer you truly, though that I 
speak truth this wanderer who stands at your side can bear 
witness, for he was present and heard my words. This 
offer I made to her, and, that it may be put beyond a 
doubt, now I make it to her and to you again. If she will 
take me in marriage, for her sake I will put away Nahua ; I 
will lay down my rule and set you in your place again, with 
liberty, so long as y.ou shall live, to work such follies as the 

8 



240 HEART OF THE WORLD 

gods may suffer. All these things i will do because I love 
her to whom I have been affianced from my youth up, bet- 
ter than them all, because she is as the light to mine eyes 
and the breath to my nostrils, and without her I have no 
joy in life, as I have had none since I believed her to be 
dead." 

Zibalbay heard, and, rising, lifted his hand to the vault 
above him, and said : 

" I thank thee, god, who, in answer to my prayers, 
hast shown me a way of escape from the troubles that be- 
set me. Tikal, it shall be as you wish, and we will swear 
our peace upon the altar of the Heart. Doubtless there 
will be trouble with Mattai and some of his following, but 
if we stand together they can be overcome. Eejoice with 
me, Ighatio, my friend, for now the seed that we have 
planted with so much labour shall bring forth golden 
fruit." 

Here I heard the senor groan with doubt and wrath be- 
hind me, and knew that, like so many others, this vision 
which filled my mind with glory must be brought to noth- 
ing because of the fancy of a woman. 

" Your pardon, Zibalbay," I interrupted, " the Lady 
Maya has not spoken." 

" Spoken ! " he exclaimed. " Why, what should she 
say?" 

" What I said to my cousin Tikal yesterday," she an- 
swered, setting her lips, and speaking very low, " that I 
will have nothing to do with him." 

" Nothing to do with him, girl ! Nothing to do with 
him ! Why he is your affianced ; you do not under- 
stand?" 

" I understand well, father, but for naught that can be 
offered to me upon the earth will I give myself in mar- 
riage to a man who has treated you and me as my cousin 
Tikal has done, a man who could not keep his oath to 
you, or wait for me one single year." 



THE CURSE OF ZIBALBAY 241 

"Cease to be foolish," said Zibalbay. " Tikal has 
erred, no doubt ; but now he would make atonement for 
his error, and if I can forgive him, so can you. Think no 
more of the girl's folly, Tikal, but send for ink and parch- 
ment and let us set down our contract, for I am old and 
have little time to lose ; and perhaps, before another year is 
gone, that which you would have snatched by force shall 
come to you by right." 

" I have the paper here, lord," said Tikal, drawing a 
roll from his breast ; " but, pardon me, does the Lady 
Maya consent ? " 

" Aye, aye, she consents." 

" I do not consent, father, and if you drag me to the 
altar with yonder man, I will cry out to the people to pro- 
tect me, or, failing their aid, I will seek refuge in death, 
by my own hand if need be." 

Now Zibalbay turned upon his daughter, trembling with 
rage, but, checking himself of a sudden, he said : 

" Tikal, for the moment this girl of mine is mad ; leave 
us, and come back in some few hours, when you shall find 
her of another mind. Go now, I pray, before words are 
said that cannot be forgotten." 

Tikal turned and went, and, until the gates at the far 
end of the hall had clashed behind him and his guards, 
there was silence. 

Then Zibalbay spoke to his daughter. 

" Girl," he said, " I know your heart and that your lips 
spoke a lie, when you told us that it was because of TikaFs 
forgetf ulness of his vow and troth that you will not marry 
him. There is another reason of which you have not 
spoken. This white man, who in his OAvn country is 
named James Strickland, is the reason. You have suf- 
fered yourself to look 011 him with longing, and you can- 
not pluck his image from your breast. Do I not speak 
truth ? " 

" You speak truth, father," she answered, placing her 



242 HEART OF THE WORLD 

hand in that of the sefior as she said the words. "To 
you, at least, I will not lie." 

" I thank you, daughter. Now, hear me ; I am sorry 
for your plight and for that of the white man, if indeed he 
would make of you anything more than his toy, but here 
your wishes must give way to the common good. Who and 
what are you that your whims should stand between me 
and the fulfilment of my lifelong desire, between your 
people and their redemption ? Must all these things come 
to nothing because of the fancies of a love-sick girl, whose 
poor beauty, as it chances by favour of the gods, can avail 
to bring them about ? " 

" It seems so, father, " she said, ' ' seeing that in this 
matter my duty to myself and to him who loves me, and 
whom I love, is higher than my duty to you and to your 
scheme. Everything else you, who are my father, may re- 
quire of me, even to my life, but my honour is my own." 

" What shall I say to this headstrong girl ? " gasped Zi- 
balbay. " Speak, White Man, and tell me that you re- 
nounce her, for surely your heart is not so wicked that it 
will lead you to consent to this folly, and to your own un- 
doing to stand between her and her destiny." 

Now all eyes were fixed upon the seflor, who turned pale 
in the lamplight and answered slowly : 

"Zibalbay, I grieve to vex you, but your daughter's des- 
tiny and mine are one, nor can I command her to forsake 
me and give herself in marriage to a man she hates." 

" Yet it seems that you could command her to break her 
plighted troth for your sake, most honourable White 
Man," said Zibalbay with a bitter laugh. "Hearken, 
friend Ignatio, for you at least are not in love, tell your 
brother there and this rebellious girl which way their duty 
lies. Teach them that we are sent here to dwell upon the 
earth for higher ends than the satisfying of our own desires. 
Stay, before you speak, remember that with this matter 
your own fate is interwoven. Remember how you have 



THE CURSE OF Z1BALBAY 243 

suffered and striven for many years, remember all yon have 
undergone to win what to-day lies in your grasp, the wealth 
that shall enable you to carry out your purposes. There, in 
those vaults, it lies to your hand, and if that be not enough 
I will give you more. Take it, Ignatio, take it to bribe 
your enemies and pay your armies, and become a king, a 
righteous king, crowned by heaven to complete the des- 
tinies of our race. Say such words as shall bend this girl 
and her lover to our will, and triumph ; or fail to say them, 
and some few days hence meet the end of a thief at the 
hands of Tikal. Now speak. " 

I heard him, and my heart stood still within me. Alas ! 
his words were true, and now was the turning-point of my 
fate. If the girl would give herself to Tikal, who was mad 
with love of her, all would be well, and within three years 
the dream of my race might be fulfilled, and the vengeance 
of generations accomplished upon the spawn of the ac- 
cursed Spaniard. There in those vaults, useless and for- 
gotten, lay the treasures that I needed, and yonder in 
Mexico were men in thousands who by their means might 
be armed and led ; but between me and them stood the de- 
sire of this woman and the folly of my friend. Oh ! truly 
had my heart warned me against her when first I learned 
to know her lovely face, having foreknowledge of the evil 
that she should bring upon me. With her I could do 
nothing, for who can turn a woman from her love or hate ? 
But with my friend it was otherwise ; he would listen to 
me if I pleaded with him, seeing that not only my hopes 
but my very life hung upon his answer, and no true man 
has the right to bring others to their death in order that he 
may fulfil the wishes of his heart. Also, it would be bet- 
ter that he should be separated from this girl, who was not 
of his blood and colour, and whose love soon or late would 
be his undoing. Surely I should do well to pray him to 
let her go to the man whose affianced she had been, and lie 
would do well to hearken to me. Almost the entreaty was 



244 HEART OF THE WORLD 

upon my lips when Maya, reading my thought, touched me 
on the arm and whispered : 

"Kemember your oath, Ignatio." Then I called to 
mind what I had promised yonder in the desert, when by 
her courage she had saved her lover's life, and knew that 
once again a woman must be my ruin, since it is better to 
lose all than to break such vows as this. 

" Zibalbay," I said, " I cannot plead your cause and 
mine, though not to do so be our destruction, seeing that I 
have sworn that, come what may, I will not stand between 
these two. To-day, for the second time in my life, my 
plans are brought to nothing by the passion of a woman. 
Well, so it is fated, and so let it be ! " 

Zibalbay did not answer me, but, turning to the seflor, 
he said : 

" White Man, you have heard from your friend words that 
should touch you more deeply than any prayer. Will you still 
cling to your purpose, and take advantage of my daughter's 
madness ? If so, know that your triumph shall be short, for 
when, in some few hours, Tikal comes again, I will tell him 
all and give you over to his keeping to deal with as he wishes. 
Then Heaven help you, wanderer, for he is vengeful by nat- 
ure, nor is that life likely to be long which bars the way be- 
tween a ruler of men and the woman he would wed. Answer 
then, and for the last time : Do you choose life or death ? " 

" I choose death," he said, boldly, " if the price of life 
be the breaking of my troth and the surrender of my bride 
to another man. I am sorry for you, Zibalbay ; and for you, 
Ignatio, my friend, I am still more sorry : but it is fate and 
not I that has brought these evils on you. If Ignatio here 
cannot forget his oath, how much less can I forget mine, 
which I have sworn with this lady. Moreover, worse fort- 
une even than to-day's would come upon us if I did, seeing 
that such cowardice could breed no luck. Therefore, till 
the Lady Maya renounces me, for good or for evil, in death 
or in life, I will cleave to her." 



THE CURSE OF ZIBALBAY 245 

" And in death or in life I will cleave to you, beloved/' 
she said. " Take such vengeance as you wish upon us, my 
father, yes, if you wish, give over this man, to whom my 
heart drew me across the mountains and the desert, to die 
at the hands of Tikal ; but know that he will hold me faster 
dead than he did while he was alive, for into the valley of 
death I shall follow him swiftly/' 

Now at last the rage of Zibalbay broke loose, and it was 
terrible. Kising from his seat he shook his clenched hands 
above his daughter's head and cursed her, till in her fear 
she shrank away from him to her lover's breast. 

" As with my last breath," he cried, " I pray that the 
curse of your gods, of your country, of your ancestors, and 
of me, your father, may rest upon you and your children. 
May your desire turn to ashes in your mouth, and may 
death rob you of its fruit ; may your heart break by inches 
for remorse and sorrow, and your name become a hissing 
and a shame. Oh ! I seem to see the future, and I tell 
you, daughter, that you shall win him for whose sake you 
brought your father to death and ruin. By fraud shall you 
win him, and for a while he shall lie at your side, and this 
is the price that shall be asked of you, and that you shall 
pay, the doom of your race, and its destruction at your 
hands" 

He paused, gasping for breath, and Maya fell at his 
knees, sobbing : 

"Oh! father, unsay those words and spare me. Have 
you no pity for a woman's heart ? " 

" Ay ! " he said, " so much pity as you have for my 
sorrows and grey hair. Why should I spare you, girl, who 
have not spared me, yoar father. My curse is spoken, and 
I^will add this to it, that it shall break your heart at last, 
ay ! and the heart of that man who has robbed me of your 
duty and your love." 

Then suddenly he ceased speaking, his eyes grew empty, 
he stretched out his arms and fell heavily to the floor. 



246 HEART OF THE WORLD 

CHAPTER XVIII 

THE PLOT 

SPRINGING forward, but too late to save him, the seflor 
and I lifted Zibalbay from the ground and laid him on a 
couch. Peeping over our shoulders, Maya caught sight of 
his ghastly face and the foam upon his lips. 

" Oh, he is dead," she moaned ; " my father is dead, and 
he died cursing me." 

"JSTo," said the seflor, "he is not dead, for his heart stirs. 
Bring water, Maya." 

She obeyed, and for hard upon two hours we struggled 
to restore his sense, but in vain ; life lingered indeed, but we 
could not stir him from his stupor. At length, as we were 
resting, wearied with our fruitless labour, the gates opened 
and Tikal came again. 

"What now ?" he asked, seeing the form of Zibalbay 
stretched upon the couch. " Does the old man sleep ? " 

" Yes, he sleeps," answered the seflor, "and I think that 
he will wake no more. The words he spoke to you to-day 
are coming true, and that which you took from him by force 
will soon be yours by right." 

"No," answered Tikal, "by right it will be the Lady 
Maya's yonder, though by force it may remain mine, unless, 
indeed, she gives it to me of her own free will. But say, 
how did this come about ? " 

Now I broke in hastily, fearing lest the seflor should tell 
too much, and thus bring some swift and awful fate upon 
himself. , 

" He was worn out with the fatigue of our journey and 
the excitement of yesterday. After you had left he began 
to talk of your proposals, and suddenly was taken with this 
fit. These matters are not for me to speak of, who am but 



THE PLOT 247 

a prisoner in a strange land ; still, lord, it will not look well 
if he who once was cacique of this city dies here and un- 
attended, for then people may say that you have murdered 
him. Have you no doctors who can be summoned to min- 
ister to him, for, without drugs, or even a bleeding-knife, 
we have done all we can do." 

" Murdered him ! That they will say in any case. Yes, 
there are doctors here, and the best and greatest of them is 
Mattai, my father-in-law. I will send him. But, Maya, 
before I go, have you no word for me ? " 

Maya, who was seated by the table, her face buried in her 
hands, looked up and said : 

" Is your heart stone that you can trouble me in such an 
hour ? When my father is recovered, or dead, I will answer 
you, and not before." 

" So be it,Lady," he said, " till then I will wait. And 
now I must get hence, for there may be trouble in the city 
when this news reaches it." 

A while passed, and Mattai appeared before us, followed 
by one who carried his scales and medicines. Without 
speaking, he came to where Zibalbay lay, and examined him 
by the light of a lamp. Then he poured medicine down his 
throat, and waited as though he expected to see him rise, 
but he neither rose nor stirred. 

" A bad case," he said. " I fear that he will awake no 
more. How came he thus ? " 

"Do you wish to know ? " asked Maya, speaking for the 
first time. " Then bid your attendant stand back, and I will 
tell you. My father yonder was smitten down while he 
cursed me in his rage." 

" And why did he curse yon, Lady?" 

' ' For this reason : While we wandered in the wilderness, 
Tikal, my cousin and my betrothed, took a wife, your daugh- 
ter Nahua, who was crowned with him as Lady of the Heart. 
But it seems, Mattai, that though he gave your daughter 
place and power, he gave her no love, for to-day this son-in- 



248 HEART OF THE WORLD 

law of yours came to my father, and in the presence of us 
all offered to set him in his lawful place again and to suffer 
him to carry out his schemes, whatever they might be, if I 
would but consent to become his wife." 

" To become his wife ! " said Mattai, in amazement. 
" How could you become his wife when he is married ? Can 
there then be two Ladies of the Heart ? " 

" No," answered Maya quietly, " but the proposal of 
Tikal, my cousin, is, that he should either put away , or 
kill your daughter and you with her, Mattai in order 
that he may set me in her place." 

Now when Mattai heard this his quick eyes flashed, and 
his very beard seemed to bristle with rage. 

" He proposed that ! He dared to propose that ! " he 
gasped. " Oh ! let him have a care. I set him up, and 
perchance I can pull him down again. Continue, Lady." 

" He proposed it, and my father agreed to the offer, for, 
knowing that you have plotted against him, he had little 
care for the honour and safety of you or of your house, 
Mattai. But if my father accepted, I refused, seeing that 
it is not my wish to have more to do with Tikal. Then 
my father cursed me, and while he cursed was stricken 
down." 

" You say it is not your wish to marry Tikal, Lady. Is 
it, then, your wish to marry any other man ? " 

" Yes," she answered, letting her eyes fall, " I love this 
white lord here, whom you name Son of the Sea, and I 
would become his wife. I would become his wife," she 
went on after a pause, " but, Mattai, Tikal is very strong, 
and it may be, unless I can find help elsewhere, that in 
order to save the life of the man I love, of his friend and 
mine, Ignatio, and my own, I shall be forced into the arms 
of Tikal. But now Tikal has asked me for my answer, 
and I have told him that I will give it whsn my father is 
recovered or dead. Perhaps it will be for you to say what 
that answer shall be, for alone and in prison I am not 



THE PLOT 249 

strong enough to stand against Tikal. Say, now, do the 
people love me well enough to depose Tikal and set me in 
my father's place, should he die ? " 

" I cannot say, Lady," he answered shortly, " but at the 
least you will scarcely ask me thus to bring about my own 
and my, daughter's ruin. I will be open with you. I 
gained over the Council of the Heart to Tikal's cause, and 
my price was that he should marry my daughter, thereby 
satisfying her love and my ambition. Yes, I have plotted 
to set Nahua on high, both for her sake and for my own, 
seeing that after the cacique I sought to be the chief man 
in the city. Can I, then, turn round and depose him, and 
my daughter and myself with him ? And if I did, what 
would be my fate at your hands in the days to come ? No, 
I seek to be revenged on Tikal, indeed, who has offered so 
deadly an affront to me and mine, but it must be in some 
other way than this. Tell me now, lady, what is it that 
you desire most, to be the cacique of this city by your 
right of birth, or to marry the man you love ? " 

" I desire to marry the man I love," she answered, "and 
to escape from this place with him back to those lands 
where white men live. I desire also that my friend and 
my lord's friend, Ignatio, should be given as much gold as 
he needs to enable him to carry out his purposes in the 
coast country yonder. If things can be "brought about 
thus, Tikal and Nahua and their descendants, for aught I 
care, may rule in the City of the Heart till the world's end." 

"You ask little enough, Lady," said Mattai, "and it 
shall go hard if I cannot get it for you. Now I will leave 
you, for I must have time to think ; but, if Tikal returns, 
say him neither yea nor nay till we have spoken again. 
And as for you, strangers, remember that your lives de- 
pend upon your caution. Farewell." 

Two more days passed, or so we reckoned by the number 
of meals that were brought to us, but neither Tikal nor 



250 HEART OF THE WORLD 

Mattai returned to visit us. Other doctors came, indeed, 
and saw Zibalbay, who lay upon his bed like one plunged 
in a deep sleep, but though they tried many remedies they 
were of no avail. On the night of the second day we were 
gathered round his couch, watching him and talking to- 
gether sadly enough, for the solitude, and the darkness, 
and the fear of impending death had broken our spirits, so 
that even the senor ceased to be merry, and the presence 
of her beloved to give comfort to Maya. 

" Alas ! " she said, " it was an evil day when we met 
yonder in the land of Yucatan, and, friend, no gift could 
have been more unlucky than that of my love to you, for 
which, being worth so little, you are doomed to pay so 
dear. Fortune has gone hardly with you also, Ignatio, 
who are fated thus for the second time to see a woman 
wreck your hopes. Say, now, friend/' and she caught the 
seiior by the arm, " would it not be best that we should 
make an end of all this folly, and that I should give my- 
self to Tikal ? Then I could bargain for you both that 
before I pass to him I should, with my own eyes, see you 
safe across the mountains, taking that with you which 
would make you rich for life. Nor need yon trouble for 
me, or think that you left me to dishonour, for, so soon as 
you were gone, I should seek the arms of another lord whose 
name is Death* and there take my rest, till in some day un- 
born you came to join me." 

" Cease to talk thus, Maya," said the senor, drawing her 
to his breast ; " whatever there is to bear we will undergo 
together, since, even if I could be so base as to buy safe- 
ty at such a price, without you my life would be worth 
nothing to me, and, indeed, I had rather die at your side 
than live on alone. It is my fault that ever we came to this 
pass, seeing that, if I had taken your counsel, we should 
not have set foot within the City of the Heart. But curi- 
osity conquered me, for I longed to see the place, as now I 
long to see the last of it ; also, had we turned back, I must 



THE PLOT 251 

have left Ignatio to go on alone. Keep your courage, sweet- 
heart, for though your father is dying and our danger is 
great, I am sure that we shall escape from these dungeons 
and be happy with each other beneath the sunlight." 

Then he kissed her upon the lips and comforted her, 
wiping away the tears that ran from her blue eyes. 

It was at this moment that I looked up and saw Mattai 
standing in the doorway, for we were gathered, not in the 
hall, but in Zibalbay's chamber, watching the scene curi- 
ously and with a softened face. 

" Greeting," he said, " and forgive me that I come so 
late, but my business is secret and such as is best done at 
night. How goes it with Zibalbay ? " 

" He lives," I answered ; "I can say no more, for he is 
senseless, and, without doubt, soon must die. But come, 
see for yourself." 

Mattai walked to the bed and examined the old man, 
lifting the eyelids and feeling his heart. 

" He cannot live long," he said. " Well, death is his 
best friend. Now to my business. There is trouble in the 
city, and strange rumours pass from mouth to mouth 
among the people, many of whom declare that Tikal has 
murdered Zibalbay, and demand that you, Lady, should be 
brought before them, that you may be named cacique in 
his place. Things being so, it has been urged upon Tikal 
by the chiefs of his party that as, do what he will, he can 
never clear himself of the death of Zibalbay, it would be 
well that he should make away with you also, Lady, and, of 
course, with these two strangers, your friends, seeing that 
then there will be none to dispute his rights. The matter 
was laid before him strongly at a secret council held this 
afternoon, and once he issued the order for your deaths, 
only to recall it before the messenger left the palace ; for at 
the last I saw that his heart overcame his reason, and he 
could not bear thus to divorce himself from you, Lady, 
though what he said was that he would not stain his 



HEART OF THE WORLD 

hands with the blood of one so innocent and fair. Still, 
I will not hide from you, Lady, or from you, strangers, 
that your danger is very great that you go, indeed, in 
jeopardy of your life from one hour to the next." 

Now he paused, and Maya asked in a low voice : 

" Have you no plan to save us, Mattai ? " 

" Why should I have a plan, Lady, who with my house 
would benefit so greatly by your death ? " 

" I do not know why you should have a plan, old man," 
broke in the sen or ; " but I tell you that you will do well 
to make one, else you do not leave this place alive," and 
as he spoke, with a sudden movement, he sprang between 
Mattai and the door. 

" If we are to be murdered like birds in a cage," he went 
on, " at least your neck shall be twisted first. Do you 
understand ? " 

" I understand, Son of the Sea," answered Mattai, flinch- 
ing a little before the senor's fierce face and hand out- 
stretched as though to grip him. " But I would have you 
understand something also ; namely, that if I do not return 
presently, there are some without who will come to seek 
me, and then " 

" And then they will find your carcase," broke in the 
sefior, " and what will all your plots and schemes advan- 
tage you when you are a lump of senseless clay ? " 

" Little indeed, I confess," he answered. " Still, my 
daughter, whom I love better than myself, will reap some 
profit, and with that, in this sad case, I must be content. 
But, do not be so hasty, white man. I asked why I should 
have a plan ? I did not say that I had none." 

" Then if you have one, let us hear it without more ado," 
said the senor. 

Mattai bowed, as he answered : 

"Your will is mine : but I know not how my plan will 
please the Lady Maya yonder, and therefore, before I unfold 
it, I will make it clear to you that there is but one alter- 



THE PLOT ' 253 

native, the death of all of you by to-morrow's light. Your 
lives lie in my hand, and if I must do so to save my daugh- 
ter and myself, I shall not hesitate to take them." 

" Any more 'than I shall hesitate to take yours, old 
man," said the senor, grimly ; "for remember always that 
if you do not make your plan such as we can accept, you 
will leave this chamber feet first with a broken neck." 

Again Mattai bowed, and continued : 

"In one way only has Tikal been able to pacify the 
tumult among the people, by declaring that the Lady 
Maya shall be produced before the Council of the Heart, in 
the Sanctuary of the Nameless god, upon the night of the 
Eising of Waters, being the first day when it is lawful for 
the Council to sit in the Sanctuary, and afterwards at 
dawn in the eyes of the whole city. The words of Zibalbay 
have taken a strange hold of the people, although they 
cried him down as he spoke them ; and they desire to know 
what will happen when the prophecy is fulfilled, and once 
more the severed halves of the symbol of the Heart are 
laid side by side in their place upon the altar. Zibalbay 
told them that he believed that then the god would reveal 
his purpose, and show what part each of you should play 
in the fate that is to be, and therefore the people aye ! 
and many among the nobles, and even the Council of the 
Heart look to see some sign or wonder when Day and 
Night are come together, and that which was parted is 
made one, for they begin to hold that the madness of Zibal- 
bay is from heaven, and that the voice of heaven sent him 
on his journey." 

Now Mattai thought for a while and went on : 

" Lady, I am old, and for many years I have followed 
the worship of the gods, doing sacrifice to them, and im- 
portuning them with prayers, yet never have I known the 
gods to make answer to their votaries, or heard the voices 
of the immortals speaking into human ears. It seems that 
gods are many : thus, perchance these strangers have their 



254 HEART OF THE WORLD 

own ; and, Lady, thus it comes that in my age I ask myself 
if there are any gods other than those that the mind of 
man has shaped from nothingness, or fashioned in the like- 
ness of its own passions. I cannot tell, but I think that 
were I in so sore a strait as you find yourselves to-night, 
I should not hesitate to give a voice to these dumb gods." 

" What is your meaning ?" asked Maya. 

" This : When the severed halves of the Heart are set in 
their place upon the altar, if there be any gods they should 
give a sign. Thus, as I who am the keeper of the Sanc- 
tuary know, the ancient symbol on the altar is hollow, and 
if it were to chance to open, it might be that a writing 
would be found within it, an ancient writing of the gods, 
prepared against the present time, that shall be to us as a 
lantern to one wandering in the dark ; or it might be that 
nothing would be found. Now, as it happens, in searching 
through the earliest records of the temple, I have discov- 
ered a certain writing, and it seems to me that your for- 
tune would be great if this writing should lie within the 
symbol on the night of the Rising of Waters. Here it 
is " 

And from his robe he produced a small plate of dull gold, 
covered over with hieroglyphics. 

" Eead it," said Maya. 

Then Mattai read : 

" This is the voice of the Nameless god that his prophet 
heard in the year of the building of the Sanctuary, and 
graved upon a tablet of gold which he set in a secret place 
in the symbol of the Sanctuary, to be declared in that 'far- 
off hour when the lost is found and the signs of the Day 
and the Night are come together. To thee it speaks, 
unborn daughter of a chief to be, whose name is the name 
of a nation. When my people have grown old and their 
numbers are lessened, and their heart is faint, then, maiden, 
take to thyself as a husband a man of the race of the white 



THE PLOT 255 

god, a son of the sea-foam, whom thou shalt lead hither 
across the desert, for so my people shall once more prosper 
and grow strong, and the land shall be to thy child and the 
child of the god, east and west, and north and south, fur- 
ther than my eagles wing between sunrise and set." 

He finished reading, and there was silence as we looked 
on each other, amazed at the boldness and the cunning of 
this old priest and plotter. It was Maya who spoke first. 

" You have forged this writing, Mattai," she said coldly, 
" and now you desire that I should set it in the symbol, for 
you are mindful of that curse which is written in the ritual 
Opening of the Heart against him who shall profane its 
mysteries and token, or who should dare to tell a lie within 
the Sanctuary, or to swear falsely by the symbol. In short, 
if you do not fear the vengeance of the god, you fear the 
vengeance of the Order." 

" To speak truth, lady, I fear both, for, in offering insult 
to the Nameless god, who knows what he offends ? Still, 
you must make your choice and swiftly, seeing that if you 
refuse the deed, by to-morrow you will have learned, or, 
perhaps remembering the words of the white lord I 
should say w e shall have learned what virtue there is in 
the religions." 

Now she turned to us, saying : 

" Advise me, friends, for I know not what to answer. In 
the faith of my people I have lost faith, and it is to yours 
that I look for comfort ; and yet the deed seems awful, for 
if we are not worshippers of the Nameless god, still we are 
all of us brethren of the ancient mysteries of the Heart, 
and to do this thing would be to break our solemn oaths. 
Come, let us put it to the vote, and do you who are the 
oldest and the wisest among us, vote first, Ignatio." 

" So be it," I answered. " For my part I give my voice 
against the trick. Of the gods of your people I know 
nothing and think less, but I am the Master of our Order 

T 



256 HEART OF THE WORLD 

in my own land, and I will not offend against it. To do 
this thing would be to act the greatest of lies, and a lie is a 
sin in the face of heaven. All men must die, but I wish to 
pass to doom with my hands unstained by fraud. Still, in 
this matter your lives are at stake as well as mine ; there- 
fore, if, of the three of us, two are in favour of the act, I 
will be bound by their decision. But if only one is in 
favour, then he must be bound by ours." 

" Good, let it be so/ 7 said Maya. " And now, beloved, 
speak and tell us whether you choose death and a clean 
conscience, or life and my love to gladden it," and she 
looked into his face with her beautiful eyes, and half 
stretched out her arms as though she would clasp him to 
her breast. 

Now, although the seflor did not answer at once, when I 
saw this and heard her words, I, Ignatio, knew that it was 
finished, since it could not be in the heart of a man in love 
to resist her pleadings and her witcheries. Presently he 
spoke, and as he did so his face grew red with a half 
shame. 

" I have no choice, " he said. " I do not fear to die if 
need be, but I should be no man were I to choose death 
while it is your wish that I should live. Like Ignatio, I 
say that the gods of this city are to me nothing more than 
idols, and to deceive that which does not exist is impos- 
sible. For the rest, I became a Brother of the Heart not 
by my own wish, but by accident, therefore on this point 
my conscience pricks me little. Only, to be a partner in 
this plot, I must speak or act a lie, and this I have never 
done before. Still it seems to me that a man may choose 
life and his love in place of a cruel and secret death, and 
keep his hands clean, even though he must play a harmless 
trick as the price of them. Yet, Maya, in this as in every 
other matter, I will do your wish, and if you think it 
better that we should die, why let us die and make an 
end." 



THE PLOT 257 

" Nay /'she answered, with a flash of reckless passion, 
" I think it better that we should live, far from this un- 
lucky city, and there be happy in each other's love. For 
your sake my father's curse has fallen on me, and after it 
all other maledictions of gods or men will be light as 
feathers. If this be a sin that we are about to work, I do 
it for the sake of you and of our love ; also because I would 
live awhile in happiness before I go down to the grave. 
See my father lying there ; throughout a long life he has 
served his god, and behold how his god has served him in 
the hour of his trouble. Let his prayers answer for us 
both, for I will have none of such false gods, unless it be 
to use them for my ends. If this be a sin that we are about 
to do, and vengeance should tread upon the heels of sin, 
let it fall upon the heads of my people, who would murder 
me for no crime ; upon the head of Mattai, who tempted 
me for his own advantage ; and, if that be not enough, 
upon my head also. Little do I care for vengeance to come, 
if for only one short year I may call you husband." 

" Ill-omened words, "muttered Mattai, shivering a little, 
" words that only a woman would utter ; but so be it." 

As he spoke I thought that I heard a faint groan break 
from the man upon the couch. I glanced anxiously at Zi- 
balbay, to find that I must have been mistaken, or, at least, 
that it had not proceeded from his lips, for he lay there 
rigid and senseless as a corpse. 

" The vote is taken," I said sadly. " What next, Mattai ?" 

" Follow me," he answered, "and I will show you a se- 
cret path from this chamber to the Sanctuary beneath. 
Nay, you need not fear to leave him, for if his life still 
burns within him, it is fast asleep. But stay, where is the 
talisman ? That will be necessary to us." 

" I have one half," I answered, " the other is about 
Zibalbay's neck." 

" Find it," he said, sternly, to the Lady Maya. " Nay, 
you must ! " 



258 HEART OF THE WORLD 

CHAPTER XIX 

THE SACKILEGE 

Now Maya bent over the form of her father and took 
the talisman from his neck. 

" I feel like one who robs the dead," she said. 

" Remember that it is to save the living, and be comfort- 
ed/' answered Mattai. " Come, let us be going, for the 
night draws on." . 

" Take a lamp, each of you," he said presently, when we 
had reached the further end of the great hall, where he 
unlocked the copper gates with a key from the bunch that 
hung at his girdle. We passed through, and, turning, he 
almost closed the gate, but not quite. 

" Why do you leave the gates ajar ? " I asked. 

" Because there are none to follow us," he answered, 
" and who knows what may happen. Should we be forced 
to fly the Sanctuary, open doors are easier to pass than 
those that are shut." 

" Who or what could force us to fly the Sanctuary ? " I 
asked. 

Mattai shrugged his shoulders and went on without an- 
swering. Now we passed down many stairs, along pas- 
sages, and through secret doors, each of which Mattai left 
open behind us, till at length we came to a blank wall of 
marble. On this wall Mattai felt with his thumb, till he 
found a spot that, being pressed, slid back, revealing a 
keyhole into which he inserted a small silver key. Then 
again he pressed upon the marble, and a panel moved that 
might have been two feet wide by six in height, and we 
saw that light streamed through the opening. Beckoning 
to us he walked through the gap in the wall, and one by 
one we followed him into the Sanctuary of the Nameless 



THE SACRILEGE 2 59 

god, and stood on the further side of the wall, huddled 
together and clasping each other's hands, for the place was 
awesome, and its utter silence and solemnity filled us with 
fear. 

The first thing that caught our eyes, as was natural, for 
it was built into the wall opposite to us, and through it 
streamed the light that filled the chamber, was the most 
wonderful and mystic effigy in the City of the Heart. That 
effigy was a colossal mask of singular and fearful beauty, 
fashioned from polished jade, and similar in design to those 
which are to be found in the ruins of Palenque and other 
deserted Indian cities, whereof no man knows the age. 
This huge green mask was placed above the narrow door 
that gave entrance to the Sanctuary, and had been carved 
to represent the countenance of a being that, although its 
features were human, resembled neither man nor woman 
in its unearthly dignity and its stamp of cruel calm. The 
thick lips were curved with a contemptuous smile, and 
between them gleamed teeth made of white enamel ; the 
nose was aquiline, with widespread nostrils that seemed to 
inhale the incense of worship ; and the forehead, in whose 
centre appeared the impress of a woman's hand soaked in 
some scarlet dye, was broad, low, and retreating. Beneath 
the solemn and contracted brows were jewelled eyes. 
Through these eyes, and, indeed, from the entire surface 
of the mask, streamed light, making the face visible as 
though it were limned in phosphorus, for the jade was 
transparent as the thinnest alabaster, and behind it burned 
two great lamps that were named after the Sun and Moon. 

Such was the effigy of the Nameless spirit that we now 
beheld for the first time, who had face but no form ; the 
spirit, Mouth of the Heart, to whom every lesser god was 
subject, Utterer of the thoughts of the Heart of Heaven, 
Lord of power, Dweller in the darkness behind the Sun, 
Searcher of the secrets of death. Without pity was this 
god of theirs, and without wrath, who, clothed in eternal 



260 HEART OF THE WORLD 

calm, so these people fabled, rested in a home of darkness, 
watching the shadow of events celestial and terrestrial in his 
mirror of the moon, and telling of them to the Heart which 
was his soul. The seal of the woman's blood-stained hand 
was set upon his brow because woman is a symbol of life 
renewed, the hand is the sign of purpose and the strength 
to do it, and by blood and anguish must every purpose be 
accomplished. But the Nameless one executed no purpose, 
that was the work of lesser gods. In the beginning the 
Heart thought, and the Mouth blew with his breath, giving 
life to the earth, and causing it to roll forward among the 
spheres, and now the Eyes watched, ever smiling, while it 
and those upon it work out our doom, till at length its 
primal force grows faint and fails when, so said the priests, 
Heart and Mouth and Eyes will think and speak and 
search, and at their command a new world shall arise from 
the corpse of the old, and a new life from the lives of those 
who dwelt upon it. 

Therefore it was, though now faith waned among them 
with their waning energies, that this people, knowing no 
better creed, worshipped the threefold Fate without a 
name, whom they held to be master of gods and men. 
Therefore, also, long generations since, in this spot which 
we came to violate, to them the most holy on the earth, 
they set up effigies of a Heart, a Mouth, and Eyes, as sym- 
bols of his attributes. 

The roof of the Sanctuary, which was of no great size, was 
vault-shaped, in imitation of the arching sky, and in it 
appeared a gold en sun, a silver crescent moon, and the stars 
of heaven. Its walls were lined throughout with polished 
blocks of the beautiful stone known as Mexican onyx, 
fretted over to the height of a man with a border of 
hieroglyphics and effigies of the lesser gods in attitudes of 
adoration, all of them cast in gold and set flush with the 
face of the wall. The furniture was very simple, consisting 
only of stools cut from rich woods heavily gilded in quaint 



THE SACRILEGE 26 1 

designs, and a small table whereon lay sheets of paper made 
of bark, together with brushes of reed fibre and pots of pig- 
ment, such as were used in the picture-writing of this peo- 
ple. Lastly, at that end by which we had entered the 
chamber, stood an altar of black marble written around with 
letters shaped in gold, and upon this altar lay something 
covered with a silken cloth. 

For a minute or more we remained silent, contemplating 
these wonders ; then, with a gesture of impatience, Mattai 
spoke in a whisper, saying : 

" Let that be done which we have come to do, for now 
the sacrilege is committed and it is too late for doubts." 

Speaking thus, he stepped to the altar and lifted the 
silken cloth that lay over the object which was upon it, 
revealing the image of a human heart fashioned in blood- 
stone and veined with arteries of gold. In the centre of 
this heart appeared a s-mall and shallow hole that had been 
hollowed in its substance. 

" This is the tradition," said Mattai, still speaking in a 
whisper, "that when the two halves of a certain talisman 
are placed in this hollow, the symbol will open and re- 
veal that which has been set within it since it was fashioned 
by Cucumatz thousands of years ago, and there is this in 
favour of the truth of the tale that golden hinges appear 
upon the sides of the symbol. Now one-half of the talis- 
man has rested here for many generations, till Zibalbay took 
it with him indeed, when he went out to seek for the other 
half, and yet the symbol has never opened ; still, I am sure 
that it will open when the whole talisman is set in its 
place. In this matter, however, there is something more 
to fear than the vengeance of the gods, for, as I can read 
well it is written in those letters that encircle the altar 
an ancient tradition tells us that if the symbol be stirred 
from the place where it has lain for so many ages, the flood- 
gate will roll back and the waters of the lake will pour in 
upon the city, destroying it and its inhabitants." 



262 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" Yet the flood-gate cannot roll back when it is not shut, 
nor can the waters flow in during the dry season, when 
they are not on a level with the walls/' answered Maya. 

" They cannot, Lady, and yet other things may happen. 
Why was the Heart set thus ? Was it not that in the ut- 
most need of its worshippers they might choose death 
rather than defeat and slavery ? And was this choice 
given to them in the wet months only ? Be sure that if at 
this moment any despairing or impious hand tore yonder 
symbol from its altar, either the waters would rush up 
through the bed of the city, or subterranean fires would 
break loose and bum it. Still, though there is something, 
I think that we have little to fear, seeing that the writing 
says that, in order to bring about so terrible a doom, the 
symbol must be torn from its altar with might. And now 
to our task. Stranger, give to the Lady Maya your half of 
the ancient talisman, that she may set it, together with the 
half she bears, in the place prepared in the symbol." 

Now with a sigh, seeing that it was too late to draw 
back, I undid the emerald from my neck and gave it to 
Maya, Avho laid it side by side with its counterpart upon 
the palm of her trembling hand, and stepped with it to the 
altar. Here she stood for a moment, then whispered in a 
faint voice : 

" Terror has taken hold of me, and I fear to do this 
thing." 

" Yet it must be done, and not by me," said Mattai, e< or 
we shall have come on a fool's errand, and go back, some 
of us, to a fool's death," and he looked towards me. 

"I will not do it," I said, answering his look, "not be- 
cause I fear your gods, but my own conscience I do fear." 

"Then I will," said the seflor boldly, "for I fear 
neither. Give me that trinket, Maya." 

She obeyed, and presently he had caused the two halves 
of the talisman to fall into their ancient and appointed bed 
in the symbol. In the great silence I remember the sound 



THE SACRILEGE 263 

they made, as they tinkled against the stone, struck my 
ear so sharply that I started. 

For some seconds, perhaps twenty, we stood still, watch- 
ing the altar with eager eyes, but the symbol never stirred. 
Then I said : 

" It seems, Mattai, that you must hide your lying writ- 
ing elsewhere, since yonder heart will not open, or, if it 
will, we have not found the key." 

" Wait a little," broke in the sefl or, " perhaps the springs 
are rusted." And before any of us could interfere to stop 
him, he placed his thumb upon the halves of the emerald 
and pressed so hard that the symbol trembled on its marble 
stand. 

" Beware ! " cried Mattai, and as the echoes of his voice 
died away all of us started in astonishment, for lo! the heart 
was opening like a flower. 

Slowly it opened, till the severed talisman fell from it, 
and its two halves lay back on the marble of the altar, re- 
vealing something hidden in its centre that shone like an 
ember in the lamplight. We crept forward and looked, 
then stood silent and half afraid, for in the hollow of the 
heart, laid upon a square plate of gold which was covered 
with picture-writing, glared a red jewel shaped like a 
human eye, that seemed to answer stare with stare. 

" If we stand like this we shall grow frightened," said 
the sefior roughly, glancing round him as he spoke, " there 
is nothing to fear in a red stone cut like an eye." 

" If you think so, White Man," answered Mattai in a 
voice that shook a little, strive as he would to command it, 
" lift up the holy thing and give me the writing that is 
beneath it. Stay, first take this, set it in the symbol, re- 
placing the eye upon it," and he handed him the forged 
tablet. 

The sefior obeyed, nor did any wonder come to pass 
when he lifted that dreadful-looking jewel, and changed 
the true for the false. 



264 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" Read it," said Maya, as the tablet was passed to Mat- 
tai, "you have knowledge of the ancient writings." 

" Perhaps it were best left unread/' he said, doubtfully. 

" Nay/' she answered, " let us know the worst. Eead 
it, I bid you." 

Then he read these strange words in a slow and solemn 
voice : 

" The Eye that has slept and is awakened sees the heart 
and purpose of the wicked. I say that in the hour of the 
desolation of my city not all the waters of the Holy Lake 
shall wash away their sin." 

Now the faces of us who heard turned grey in the lamp- 
light, for though the gods of this people were false, we felt 
that the voice of a true prophet spoke to us from that ac- 
cusing tablet, and that we had called down upon our heads 
a vengeance which we could not measure. 

" Did I not tell you that it were wiser to leave the writ- 
ing unread," gasped Mattai, letting the tablet fall from his 
hand as though it were a snake. 

The clatter of it as it struck the marble floor seemed to 
wake us from our evil dream, for the seflor turned on him, 
and said fiercely : 

" AVhat does it matter what the thing says, rogue, 
seeing that you forged it as you have forged the other." 

" Ah ! would that I had," answered Mattai ; "but when 
doom overtakes you and all of us, then shall you learn 
whether I forged that ancient writing ; " and he lifted it 
from the floor, and, hiding it in his robe, added, " Close 
the heart, White Man, and give back the severed jewel to 
those who wear it." 

The seflor obeyed, replacing the silken cloth over the 
symbol, so that the altar seemed to be as it had been. 

"Now let us be going," said Mattai, "and rejoice, that 
if yonder eye has seen our wickedness, at least it is hidden 
from the sight of man. Doubtless the vengeance of the 
gods is sure, but that of men is swift." 



THE SACRILEGE 265 

As he spoke we turned to leave the Sanctuary, and of a 
sudden Maya screamed, and would have fallen had not the 
seftor caught her. Well might she scream, for there in the 
narrow niche of the secret door by which we had entered, 
framed in it as a corpse is framed in its coffin, stood a white 
figure which at first I took to be that of some avenging 
ghost, so ghostlike were the wrappings, the snowy beard 
and hair, and the thin, fierce face. Another instant, and 
I saw that indeed it was a ghost, the ghost of Zibalbay, or 
rather his body come back from the boundaries of death to 
spy upon our sacrilege before it crossed them for ever. 

Yes, it was Zibalbay, for while he had seemed to be un- 
conscious upon the bed in the chamber, his senses were 
awake, and oh ! what must he have suffered when he, the 
high priest of the Nameless god, heard us plan our fraud 
upon his Sanctuary. Then, after we had left him, fury and 
despair unfettered the limbs that had been bound so fast 
and gave him strength to follow us, though they could not 
unlock his frozen tongue. He had followed ; painfully he 
had crept down the stairs, along the passages, and through 
the open door, for the path was known to him even in the 
dark, till at length he came to the secret entrance of the 
Sanctuary. Here once more his force deserted him ; here, 
unable to speak or stir, he had leaned against the wall and 
seen and heard all that was done and said. 

Oh ! never shall I forget the rage of his quivering face, 
or the agony and horror of his tormented eyes as they met 
our own. No curse could have been so awful as that look 
which he let fall upon his daughter, and no outraged deity 
or demon could have seemed more terrible to the human 
sight than was the tall figure of this dying man, striving 
even in death to protect the honour of his gods, which 
we had violated in their most ancient holy of holies. Never 
have I seen such a dreadful sight, and I pray that never 
again may I do so either in this world or the next. 

The dying Zibalbay saw our fear, and with a last effort 



266 HEART OF THE WORLD 

he staggered forward towards his daughter, his clenched 
hands held above his head. For a moment he stood before 
her as she lay upon her lover's arm staring up at him like 
a bird at a snake, while he swayed to and fro above her like 
the snake about to strike. Then, of a sudden, foam min- 
gled with blood burst from his lips, and he sank down at 
her feet dead, dying in r* silence that was more awful than 
any sound. 

Of all that followed I need not write. Indeed, I cannot 
do so, for so great was my horror at this scene, and so in- 
tense the strain which was put upon my vital force during 
these hours, that I have little memory of what chanced af- 
ter Zibalbay's death, till I found myself lying exhausted 
upon the bed in my prison cell. 

Somehow we calmed and silenced Maya ; somehow we es- 
caped from that hateful Sanctuary, and by slow degrees 
brought her and the dead body of her father up the narrow 
stairs and passages to the hall above, where we laid the 
corpse upon its bed. Then Mattai left us, and I remember 
no more till the next morning when nobles and leeches 
came to watch by the body of the dead cacique, and to 
embalm it in readiness for the tomb. 

The next two days went heavily for the three of ns, op- 
pressed as we were by the silent gloom of our prison and 
the memories of that dreadful night. The love between 
Maya and her father had never been deep, for they were 
out of tune with each other ; still, now that he was dead 
she mourned him, the more perhaps because he had died 
hating and cursing her. By degrees she recovered from 
her superstitious fears, born of the writing in the symbol ; 
but her father's maledictions she never could forget, and 
though she was willing to earn and to bear these for the 
sake of her love for the seflor, I think that their memory 
lay between them like a shadow. 



THE SACRILEGE 267 

" Oh ! why did I ever love you ? " she would say. 
" What have you to do with me, whom race and law and 
fate have set apart from me ? " And yet she went on lov- 
ing him even more dearly. 

I, also, was unhappy, for though I put little faith in 
these omens, or in the vapourings of dead prophets and 
the tricks of living charlatans, I felt that the ill-luck 
which had clung to me in the past was with me still. 
Things had gone cross with me ; Zibalbay was dead, and 
Woman, the inevitable, had drawn away the heart of my 
friend and dragged me and my plans into the Avhirlpool of 
her passion, whence, if at all, they must emerge ruined 
and shapeless. Still, summoning the patience of my race 
to my aid, I bore these secret troubles as I might, giving 
counsel and comfort to the lovers, who, lost in their own 
doubts and difficulties> thought, as was natural, little of 
me and my lost ambitions. 

At length they carried away the corpse of Zibalbay to be 
wrapped in its winding-sheet of gold and set with all an- 
cient pomp and ceremony by those of its forefathers in the 
Hall of the Dead. Maya wept indeed, but I for my part 
was glad to see the last of him, and so, I think, was the 
sefior, whose spirits had begun to fail him in the presence 
of so much remorse and grief. 

That day it was the day previous to the night of the 
Eising of Waters, on which we were to appear before the 
Council of the Heart in the Sanctuary Tikal came to 
visit us. To Maya he bowed low, but on the senor and 
myself he looked with an angry eye, with the eye, indeed, 
of one who would have killed us if he dared. First, with 
many fine words and empty compliments, he offered her 
his sympathy upon the death of her father. For this she 
returned her thanks, quoting, however, with a flash of her 
old spirit, a certain proverb of her own people, of which 
the meaning is that the death of one man is the breath of 
another, 



268 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" My father was your foe, Tikal," she added, " and now 
that he is gone you will be able to sleep and reign in 
peace." 

" Not altogether so, Lady," he answered, " seeing that 
he has left behind him a more dangerous rival to my 
power, namely, yourself. I will not hide from you, Maya, 
what you soon must learn, that a large portion of the peo- 
ple, and with them many of the nobles, accusing me of 
your father's murder, clamour that I should be deposed, 
and that you should be set in my place as cacique of the 
City of the Heart. Some few days ago I might have stilled 
their outcry by commanding you to be put to death, but 
now it is too late, for, since then, Time has fought for you, 
and doubtless your end would be followed by my own. 
When last we met, cousin, I asked you a certain question, 
to which you promised me an answer when your father 
was dead or recovered, and to-day I have come to hear that 
answer. While Zibalbay lived I had much to offer him 
and you in exchange for your hand, and I offered it freely. 
So high a value did I place upon it when it seemed lost to 
me, that I was prepared to lay down my power, to suffer 
your father to violate the laws, and to incur the eternal 
hate and active enmity of Mattai, his daughter, and his 
party. Now I must make you a lower bid : that of equal 
power for yourself ; and for your friends here, whatever 
they may desire. Should you refuse me, this is the alter- 
native : civil war in the city till one of us is destroyed, and 
instant death as the portion of these strangers. 

" But, Maya, I pray you not to refuse me, for I have 
something more to offer you my undying love. From a 
child I always loved you, Maya, although you have treated 
me coldly enough, and now day by day I love you more. 
Indeed I believed that you and your father were dead yon- 
der in the wilderness, for then I had faith in Mattai, whom 
now I know to be a rogue, and Mattai swore that it was 
written in the stars. Even so I would not have wed 



THE SACRILEGE 269 

another woman, for my heart bled at the loss of you, had 
not Mattai made this marriage the price of his support, 
without which I could not hope to be anointed cacique, 
seeing that I have many jealous enemies. It was ambition 
that led me to consent, and bitterly have I regretted my 
folly ever since ; for if she who is called my wife loves rne, 
I hate her, and by this means or by that I will be rid of 
her. Forgive me, then, my sin against you, remembering 
only that I have loved and served you in the past as I will 
love and serve you in the future, and that it was you who 
brought about these troubles because, though I prayed you 
to stay and did all in my power to prevent you, you deter- 
mined to accompany your father upon his mad journey 
into the wilderness. Now I have spoken, and I thank you 
fo.r the courtesy with which you have listened to me." 

" You have spoken, cousin," she answered, "and your 
words have been gentle ; yet, if I understand you right, 
some few days since you were in doubt as to whether it 
would not be better to murder me here in this darksome 
hole where you have placed us." 

' ' If policy put any such thought into my mind, Maya, 
love drove it out again," he answered, with confusion. 

" So you admit that this was so," she said. " Well, a 
day may come when policy might breed the thought, and 
love, grown weary, prove not warm enough to wither it. 
Also it seems that even now you threaten these my com- 
panions with death, should I refuse you your desire." 

" If you should refuse me my desire, Maya, perhaps it 
will be for a secret reason of your own," and he scowled at 
the seflor angrily, " a reason that the death of these men, 
or of one of them, will remove." 

' ' Be sure of one thing, Tikal," she broke in sharply, 
" that such a wicked deed would put an end for ever to 
your hopes of making me your wife. Now, listen. I have 
heard your words, and they have touched me somewhat, for 
I think that although you have broken your oath to my 



270 HEART OF THE WORLD 

father, and your troth with me, at heart you are honest in 
your love. Still, I can give you no answer now, and for 
this reason, that the answer does not lie with me, but 
rather with the gods. To-morrow night we appear before 
the high Court of the Council of the Heart, and you your- 
self shall set the severed portions of the talisman that we 
have travelled so far to seek in the place prepared to re- 
ceive it, in the symbol that is on the altar of the Sanc- 
tuary. Then, as my dead father believed, and he was 
gifted with wisdom from above, the god shall declare his 
purpose in this way or in that, showing his servants why 
all these things have come about, and what they must do 
to fulfil his will. By that will, cousin, and not by my 
own, I shall be guided in this and in all other things." 
Now, Tikal thought awhile, and answered : 
" And if nothing follows this ceremony, and the oracles 
of the god are silent, what then ?" 

" Then, Tikal," she said softly, " you may ask me again 
if I will become your wife, and perhaps, if the Council suf- 
fers it, I shall not say you nay. Now, farewell, for grief 
still shadows me, and I can talk no more." 



CHAPTER XX 

THE COUNCIL OF THE HEART 

Now, when Tikal was gone I sat silent, for although it 
might be necessary to save our lives, and to bring about 
the fulfilment of Maya's love, all this double-dealing did 
not please me, and I could not talk of it with a light heart. 
But the senor said : 

" I hope that yonder rogue, Mattai, may not have re- 
pented or been over-bribed by Tikal, and set some other 



THE COUNCIL OF THE HEART 271 

phophecy in the hollow of the symbol, for then, Maya, you 
will be taken at your word, and things will be worse than 
ever they have been." 

" I pray not, and it is not likely," she answered, starting, 
then with a quick burst of passion she added : 

" But why do you look at me with such reproach, Ig- 
natio ? No, do not anwser, for I know why. It is because 
you think me a cheat and a liar, and are saying in your 
heart, ' This is a woman's honour. Thus would any 
woman act in the hour of temptation.' Ignatio, with all 
your courtesy, you hate and despise us women, looking on 
us as lower than yourselves, as a snare to your strength and 
a pitfall for your feet. Well, if so, thus we were made, 
and can we quarrel with that which made us ? Also, in 
some ways we are greater than you, though you may be 
pleased to call yourselves more honest. You would not have 
dared for your love what I have dared for mine ; you would 
not have offered deadly outrage to the god of your people, 
to the instinct of your blood, and the teachings of your 
youth. No, you would have sat still and wrung your 
hands and seen your lover perish before your face, and 
then have turned your eyes to the sky and said : ' It can- 
not be helped, it is well ; at least, / am clean in the sight 
of heaven.' 

" So be it : I, Maya, am of a different nature, I have 
dared all these things and I joy in them, even though you 
watch me ever with your melancholy eyes. Why should I 
not ? Is not my love everything to me, and is it shameful 
that this should be so ? I believe no more in this unknown 
god ; why, then, should I fear to offend him ? I will not 
see my betrothed given up to death, and myself to worse 
than death ; and how can I harm my people by taking a 
man nobler than themselves to be my husband ? Cease, 
then, to reproach me by your silence ; or, rather, learn to 
pity me, for my strait is sore, and doubtless vengeance dogs 
my heels. Let it fall, if it will, on me, but not on you, be- 



272 HEART OF THE WORLD 

loved, oh ! not on you " and suddenly her anger left 

her, and she sank into the senor's arms and lay there weep- 
ing bitterly. 

Then I went to the further end of the hall and sat there 
reading the ancient writings of this people, which we had 
found in the chamber. Indeed, this was my daily occupa- 
tion, for now I found that these lovers liked to be alone, 
unless it happened that there were plans to be thought out 
or counsel to be given. A shadow grew between me and 
the senor in those days ; for, though he said nothing of it, 
he also was angry because I did not approve of the dark 
plot to which we were parties, and Maya's outburst spoke 
his mind with her own. Nor was this wonderful, for now, 
looking back, I do not blame her or him, or think that they 
did wrong, and I believe that what I really felt was not in- 
dignation at a trick which might well be pardoned, seeing 
how much hung to it, but superstitious fear lest some 
force, human or infernal, should visit that trick with 
vengeance ; for, as we know, even the devils have power 
against us if we give it to them by fighting the world with 
their own weapons. 

On the following day the attendants who set our meals 
brought with them clean robes for each of us, scented and 
wonderfully worked, and for Maya certain royal ornaments. 
In these we arrayed ourselves before evening, and waited. 
The hours passed, and at length the copper gates were 
opened, and a band of nobles and guards presented them- 
selves before us, saying that they were commanded to lead 
us to the Sanctuary. We answered that nothing would 
please us better, who were heartily weary of living like rats 
in the dark, and in a few minutes we found ourselves walk- 
ing up the stairs towards the crest of the pyramid. 

We reached it, and saw the stars shining above us, and 
felt the breath of heaven blowing in our faces, and never 
have the sight of the stars or the taste of the night air 
seemed more sweet to me. Leaving the watch-house we 



THE COUNCIL OF -THE HEART 2/3 

walked to the great stair across the lonely summit of the 
pyramid and began to descend its side. At the foot of the 
stairway we turned to the right till we came to a double 
door of copper,, beautifully worked, placed in the centre of 
the western face of the pyramid, and guarded by a small 
body of soldiers, who saluted and admitted us. Beyond the 
doors was a great hall not unlike that which had served as 
our prison, lit with lamps, lined with polished marble, and 
having on either side of its length doorways leading to the 
apartments that were used as sleeping-places for the officers 
on duty. At the threshold of this hall we were met by 
priests clothed in pure white, into whose custody we were 
given by the company of nobles and soldiers that had es- 
corted us thus far. 

Surrounded by the priests, who chanted as they walked, 
we passed down the hall till we reached another and a 
smaller door. Beyond this lay a labyrinth of steeply sloping 
passages, running in every direction deep into the bowels 
of the rock beneath the pyramid. So intricate and numer- 
ous were these tunnels, that, even with the assistance of the 
lights which the priests carried, it would have been almost 
impossible for any one not having their secret, to find a 
path through them, or even to keep his face in a given di- 
rection for more than a few paces. 

Along these passages our guides went without faltering, 
turning now to the right, now to the left, and now seeming 
to retrace their footsteps, till at length they halted to open 
a third door, covered over with plates of beaten gold, on the 
further side of which lay the most sacred spot save one in 
the City of the Heart, the chamber that served the three- 
fold purpose of a judgment-hall, a church wherein the 
nobles attended worship, and a burial-place of the departed 
caciques of the city. Here in this vast and awful vault, 
each of them set in his own niche and companioned by his 
consort, stood the bodies of every king-priest who had 
reigned in the holy city, enclosed in coffins of solid gold, 



2/4 HEART OF THE WORLD 

fashioned to the shape and likeness of the corpse within, 
and having the name, age, date of death, and a brief 
account of the good or evil that the man had done cut in 
symbols on his breast. There they stood eternally, men 
and women made in gold, and beneath their brows gleamed 
false eyes of emeralds. Numerous as were the niches in the 
chamber, each had its tenants ; and in the last recess that 
nearest to the entrance stood a new comer ; for here in his 
gilded sheath was placed the corpse of Zibalbay, by the 
side of her who had been his wife and Maya's mother. 

For a moment Maya paused to look upon the bodies of 
her parents, then with a sigh and an obeisance she passed 
on, saying to me, " See, this Hall of the Dead is full, there 
is no place left for me or for my descendants, and surely 
that is an evil omen. Well," she added, with a sigh, 
" what does it matter where they set us when we are dead ? 
For my part I had sooner sleep in the earth, or beneath the 
waters, than stand for ever cased in gold and glaring with 
jewelled eyes upon the darkness. Yes, if I might, I should 
choose the earth that bore me, for it would turn my flesh 
to flowers." 

Then we went on defiling before the silent company of 
the golden dead, who seemed to watch us as we walked, till, 
passing round a judgment-seat that was set near the end 
of the hall, we stood in front of a little door over which 
burned great lamps. This door was guarded by two priests 
with drawn swords, which they pointed towards us as a 
sign that we should halt. 

Then the priests who had escorted us so far fell back bo- 
hind the judgment-seat, and we were left alone. 

" Give the sign, keepers of the gate," said Maya. 

Thereupon one of the men with the drawn swords ut- 
tered a low and peculiar cry like to the wail of a child. 
When he had made this strange sound thrice at intervals 
of about half a minute, it was answered from within by 
another and a louder cry pitched upon the same note. 



THE COUNCIL OF THE HEART 2?$ 

Then of a sudden the door was flung wide, and a stern- 
looking man with a shaven head came through it. 

" Who are you that seek entrance into the Sanctuary ? " 
he asked ; "are you gods or devils, men or women ?" 

"We are two men and a woman," answered Maya, 
" priests and priestess of the Heart, and we come to take 
our trial before the Council of the Heart, as is our right." 

"Do you know the open signs of the Heart, the signs 
of Brotherhood, of Unity, and of Love, that you dare to 
stand upon the threshold of the Sanctuary, to cross which 
is death to the ignorant ? " 

" We know them," answered Maya. And one by one we 
gave^ those signs. 

" Do you know the secret signs of the Heart, that you 
dare to cross this threshold ? " he asked again. " Otherwise 
get you back and take your trial in the common judgment- 
hall." 

"I know them," answered Maya, "and I vouch for 
these men who accompany me. Suffer me, then, to enter, 
and these with me, for I am here by ancient right, and I 
have knowledge both of the outward signs and the inner 
mysteries." 

Now the man withdrew, and the door was closed behind 
him. Presently he appeared again and said : 

" I have reported to the Council, and it is the will of the 
Council that you should enter." 

" Follow me," said Maya to us, ' ' and when you are 
spoken to make no answer till I have vouched for you. I 
will answer for you." 

The priests let their swords fall, and, passing through 
the doors, for there were two of them connected by a short 
passage, once more we found ourselves standing beneath 
the mask of the Unknown god in the Sanctuary of the 
City of the Heart. But now it was no longer empty. 

Behind the little altar were three stools, and upon them, 
clad in wonderful apparel, and adorned with gold and 



276 HEART OF THE WORLD 

gems, sat Tikal, Mattai, and Nahua, who was the only 
woman present. In front of the altar was an open space, 
and beyond its circle, each wearing the orders of his spir- 
itual rank, sat the Brethren of the Heart according to 
their degree, to the number of thirty-six. 

Led by Maya we advanced into the space before the 
altar, and stood there in silence. None of those present 
took note of us ; indeed, they did not seem to see us, but 
sat with bent heads and with hands folded crosswise on 
their breasts. At length one of the Brethren he who was 
nearest to the door, and had questioned us without rose, 
and, addressing Tikal, said : 

"Keeper of the Heart, one who claims to be of our 
company stands before you, and with her two for whom 
she vouches, who, although they be strangers, by your 
command I have proved to be Brethren of the Heart, 
though what more they may be I know not. Be pleased, 
then, to prove them also by the voice of their sponsor, that 
their mouths may be opened and their prayer come to 
the ears of the Council." 

At his words two of the brethren rose and blindfolded 
the seflor and myself, lest we should see the sacred signs, 
with all of which, indeed, I was well acquainted, but Maya 
they did not blindfold. Then we heard Tikal asking : 

"How are you named who are strange to our eyes?" 
We made no reply, for a voice in our ears cautioned us to 
be silent. 

" We are named < the Son of the Sea' and 'Ignatio the 
Wanderer/ " answered the voice of Maya. 

" Son of the Sea, and Ignatio the Wanderer, why come 
you here," asked Tikal, "through the gate on which is 
written ' Death to the Stranger and to the Uninstructed.' '" 

"Because we have a prayer to utter, an offering to make, 
and because, although we dwell in a far laud, we are the 
servants of the Heart," answered Maya. 

" How come ye here ? " 



THE COUNCIL OF THE HEART 277 

" The Heart led, the Mouth whispered, and we followed 
the light of the Eyes." 

' ' Show me the sign of the light of the Eyes, or die to 
this world." 

Now there was silence, and, though we could not see it, 
Maya showed the sign on our behalf. 

" Show me the second sign, the sign of the Mouth, or be 
cursed by the Mouth, and die to this world and the next." 

Again there was silence. 

" Show me the sign of the Heart, the third and greatest 
sign, lest the Heart think on you, and ye die to this world, 
to the next world, and all the worlds that are to be ; lest ye 
be cast out between the Light and Darkness, and lost in 
the gulf of fire that joins Heaven to Hell." 

Now we heard a sound of rustling, as though all the 
company had risen and were prostrating themselves, and 
presently the bandages were lifted from our eyes. 

" Strangers," said Tikal, "your mouths are opened in 
the Sanctuary according to the ancient form, and it is law- 
ful for the Council to listen to your prayer. Speak, then, 
without fear." 

Then I spoke, saying : 

" Brethren, for so I will dare to call you, seeing that I 
also, though a stranger, am of the Brotherhood of the 
Heart, as I can prove to you if need be, ay ! and higher in 
rank than any present here, unless it be you, Keeper of 
the Heart : on my own behalf, on behalf of my brother 
who also is of our company, and on behalf of Maya, Lady 
of the Heart, daughter of him who ruled you, and heiress 
to his power, I speak and make my prayer to you. It 
would seem that we three, together with Zibalbay, who is 
dead and therefore beyond the execution of your judgment, 
have violated the laws of this city, we by daring to enter 
its gates, and Zibalbay and the Lady Maya by leading us to 
those gates. For this crime we should have been put to 
death eight days ago upon the pyramid, had not the Lady 



278 HEART OF THE WORLD 

Maya here claimed a right to have our cause laid before 
this high tribunal. In her case and in that of her father 
this was conceded, and I pray now that the same clemency 
may be extended to me and to my brother." 

"Upon what grounds do you claim this, stranger?" 
asked Tikal. 

" Upon the ground that we are Brethren of the inmost 
circle of the Heart, and therefore have committed no crime 
in. visiting this city, which is free to us by right of our 
rank and office." 

Now there was a murmur of " True" from the Council 
behind me, and Tikal also said "True," but added, "If 
you are Brethren of the inmost circle of the Heart, you are 
free from offence ; but first you must prove that this is so, 
which as yet you have not done. A brother of the inmost 
circle knows its mysteries and can answer the secret ques- 
tions. Come, let us put you to the test, but first let the 
white man be removed from the Sanctuary, for in this 
matter each must vouch for himself." 

Accordingly the sen or was led away, and, the doors having 
been closed and the lamps shaded, the oldest and most 
instructed of the councillors stood forward and put me to 
the test with many questions, all of which I answered 
readily. Then they commanded me to stand before the 
altar, and, as Keeper of the Heart, to open the Heart in the 
highest degree. This I did also, though afterwards they 
told me that my ritual differed in some particulars from 
their own. After that I took up my parable and questioned 
them till at length none there could answer me, no, not 
even the high priest or Mattai ; and they confessed humbly 
that I was more instructed than any one of them, and be- 
cause of this knowledge from that day forward I was held 
in veneration in the City of the Heart. 

Now I was given a seat among the Brethren, the highest, 
indeed, after those of the chief priest and the great officers, 
and the senor was summoned. 



THE COUNCIL OF THE HEART 279 

He entered with a downcast look, and while Maya and I 
watched him sadly, his examination began. It was not 
long. At the second question he became confused, used 
angry language in Spanish and English, and broke down. 

" Brethren," said Tikal, and there was joy in his eye, as 
he spoke, " it seems that we need not trouble further with 
this impostor. By daring to enter our city he has earned 
the penalty of death ; moreover he has blackened his crime 
by claiming to be of our Brotherhood, whereas he scarcely 
knows the simplest pass-word. Is it your will that he 
should be taken to his fate ? If so, speak the word of 
doom." 

Now Maya rose affrighted, but, motioning to her to be 
silent, I spoke, saying : 

" Hear me before that fatal word is spoken which cannot 
be recalled ! This man is of our inmost Brotherhood, 
though he has not been formally admitted to the inner 
circles, and has forgotten those of the mysteries which 
were taught to him at his initiation. Listen, and I will tell 
you how he came to join the Order of the Heart," and I 
told them that tale of my rescue by the senor, and told 
them also all the story of our meeting with Zibalbay and of 
our journey to the City of the Heart, speaking to them for 
an hour or more while they hearkened earnestly. 

"When I* had done they debated as to the fate of the 
senor, and though by only one vote decided that if I had 
nothing more to urge on his behalf he must straightway 
die. 

"I have something more to urge before you pass judg- 
ment," I said in my need and despair (speaking and acting 
a lie to save the life of my beloved friend, yes, I who had 
blamed Maya for this same deed), " though it has to do 
with the mysteries of your religion rather than with those 
of our Order. It was the belief of Zibalbay, who is dead, 
that when the two halves of the ancient talisman the 
halves Night and Morning, that together make the perfect 



280 HEART OF THE WORLD 

Day are set in their place in the symbol which once they 
filled before the dividing of peoples, then it shall be made 
clear what part must be played by each of us wanderers in 
the fate that is to be. To this end did Zibalbay undertake 
his journey, and lo ! here is that which he went to seek 
and I drew the talisman from my breast. ' ' Take it, Tikal, 
for I resign it, and lay it with its fellow in the place that 
is prepared for them, so that we may learn, and all your 
people may learn, what truth there is in the visions of 
Zibalbay." 

" That is our desire," answered Tikal, taking the severed 
emerald and its counterpart which Maya gave to him. 
" Let the white man, Son of the Sea, be placed without 
the Sanctuary and guarded there awhile, for so at least he 
will gain time to prepare himself for death. Fear not, 
lady," he added, noting Maya's anxious face, " no harm 
shall be done to him till this matter of the prophecy is 
made clear." 

Now for the second time the seflor was removed, and 
when he had gone Tikal spoke, tracing the history of the 
prophecy so far as it was known, and reciting its substance, 
that when once more the two halves of the symbol of the 
Heart were laid side by side in their place on the altar in 
the Sanctuary, then from that hour the people should grow 
great again. 

" In all this," he said, "I have little faith ; still, Zibal- 
bay, who in his way was wise, believed it, and, the story 
having gone abroad, the people clamour that it should be 
put to the test. Is this your will also ? " 

" It is our will," answered the Councillors. 

" Good. Then let it be done, and on your heads be it if 
harm should come of the deed. Mattai, the Council com- 
mands you to set these fragments in the hollow of the 
symbol." 

" If such is the order of the Council I have no choice 
but to obey," said Mattai. " Yet, though none else have 



THE COUNCIL OF THE HEART 281 

done so, I give my voice against it, for I hold that this is 
childishness, and never did I know any good to spring 
from prophecies," and he paused as though waiting for an 
answer. 

" Obey ! Obey I" said the Council, for curiosity had got 
a hold of them, and they craned their necks forward to see 
what might happen. 

" Obey ! " repeated Tikal. " But beware how you shake 
the Heart, lest the legend prove true and we should perish 
in the doom of waters." 

Then Mattai set the two halves of the talisman in their 
place ; and as before, in the midst of an utter silence, lo ! 
the symbol opened like a flower. Leaning forward I saw 
the eye within its hollow ; but it seemed to me that the fire 
had faded from the heart of the jewel, for now it gleamed 
coldly, like the eye of a man who is two hours dead. I 
think that Mattai noted this also, for as the symbol opened 
he started and his hand shook. 

Now, when they saw the marvel, a gasp of wonder rose 
from the Council, then Tikal spoke, saying : 

" It seems that there was wisdom in Zibalbay's madness, 
for the Heart has opened indeed, and within it is a stone 
eye resting upon a plate of gold that is covered with 
writing." 

" Read the writing ! " they cried. 

Displacing the eye, Tikal lifted the plate of gold and 
scanned it. 

" I cannot," he said, shaking his head. " It is written 
in a character more ancient than any I have learned. Take 
it, Mattai, for you are instructed in such signs." 

Now Mattai took the tablet and studied it long with 
an anxious face, upon which at length light broke that 
changed anon to wonder, or rather blank amaze, so that I, 
watching him, began to think, not knowing all the clever- 
ness of Mattai, that the seflor was right, and the tablet had 
been tampered with since we saw it. 



282 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" Read ! Read ! " cried the Council. 

" Brethren," he said, " the words seem clear, and yet so 
strange is this writing that I fear my learning is at fault, 
and that I had best give it to others to decipher." 

"No ; read, read," they cried again, almost angrily. 

Then he read : 

" This is the voice of the Nameless god tha'; his prophet 
heard in the year of the building of the Sanctuary, and 
graved upon a tablet of gold which he set in a secret place 
in the symbol of the Sanctuary, to be declared in that far- 
off hour when the lost is found and the signs of the Day 
and the Night are come together. To thee it speaks, un- 
born daughter of a chief to be, whose name is the name of 
a nation. When my people have grown old and their num- 
bers are lessened, and their heart is faint, then, maiden, 
take to thyself as a husband a man of the race of the white 
god, a son 'of the sea-foam, whom thou shalt lead hither 
across the desert, for so my people shall once more prosper 
and grow strong, and the land shall be to thy child and 
the child of the god, east and west, and north and south, 
further than my eagles wing between sunrise and set." 

Now, as Mattai read, the face of Tikal grew black with 
rage, and before ever the echoes of his voice had died away, 
he sprang from his seat crying : 

" Whoever it was that wrote this lying prophecy, god or 
man, let him be accursed. Shall the Lady Maya for her 
it must be whose name is the name of a nation be given 
in marriage to the white dog who awaits his doom without 
that door, and shall his son rule over us ? First will I see 
her dead and him with her ! " 

Then one of the oldest of the Council, a man named 
Dimas, who, as I learned afterwards, had been foster- 
brother to Zibalbay, rose and answered wrathily : 

" It seems that these things must be so, Tikal, and be- 



THE COUNCIL OF THE HEART 283 

ware how you titter threats of death lest they should fall 
upon your own head. We have called upon the god, and 
the god has spoken in 110 uncertain voice. The Lady Maya 
must become wife to the white man, Son of the Sea, and 
then things shall befall as they are fated." 

" What ? " answered Tikal. ' ' Is this wandering stranger 
to be set over me and all of us ? " 

" That I do not know," said the Councillor, " the writing 
does not say so ; the writing says that his son shall be set 
over us, and as yet he has no son. But this is certain, that 
the Lady Maya must be given to him as wife, and in her 
right he well may rule, seeing that she is the lawful heir to 
her father, and not you, Tikal, although you have usurped 
her place." 

Now many voices called upon Maya, and she stood for- 
ward and spoke, with downcast eyes. 

" What shall I say ? " she began, "except one thing, that 
my will is the will of the gods, and if it is fated that I 
should be given to the white man in marriage, why, so let 
it be. For many years I was taught to look elsewhere, but 
he who was to have been my husband " and she pointed 
towards Tikal " chose himself another wife, and now I 
see that he did this not altogether of his own will, but be- 
cause it was so decreed. One thing more. I, who am but 
a woman, have no desire to rule or to take the place that 
the Lady Nahua holds. The writing says that in a day to 
come, a far-off day, some child of mine, if indeed I am that 
f daughter of a chief whose name is the name of a nation/ 
shall rule in truth. Let him then come in his hour and 
take the glories that await him, and meanwhile, Tikal, do 
you sit in your place and leave me to rest in peace." 

" The Lady Maya speaks you fair, Tikal, and my daugh- 
ter," said Mattai, " and if the people will have it, you may 
do well to accept her offer, leaving the future to shape 
itself. She says she is ready to take the white man as a 
husband, but we have not yet heard whether the white man 



284 HEART OF THE WORLD 

will take her as a wife. It may be " he added with a smile 
"that he will rather choose to die ; but at the least we must 
have an answer from his lips, that is, if you accept this 
prophecy as sent from heaven. Say, do you accept it ? " 

"We accept it," answered the Council almost with one 
voice. 

"Then let the white man, Son of the Sea, be brought 
before us," said Mattai. 



CHAPTER XXI 

THE MARKIAGE OF MAYA 

PRESENTLY the door opened and the sefior was led into the 
Sanctuary, as he thought to his death, for I saw that his 
teeth were set and that his hand was clenched as though to 
defend himself. But as he came the most of the Council 
rose and bowed to him, crying : 

' e Hail to you ! Son of the Sea, Favoured of Heaven, 
Father fore-ordained of the Deliverer to come ! " 

Then he knew that the plot had succeeded, and he uttered 
a great sigh of relief. 

" Hearken, white lord," said Mattai, for Tikal sat still 
and scowled on him in silence ; " the gods have spoken by 
their oracle. As Zibalbay thought, so it is, and your feet 
have been led for a purpose to the gates of the City of the 
Heart. Listen to the words of the gods," and, taking 
the tablet, he read to him the false prophecy. "Now 
choose, White Man. Will you take the Lady Maya to wife, 
or will you be put to death in that, having wandered to 
the City of the Heart, you refuse to obey the command of 
its gods ? " 

Now the seflor thought and answered : 

" The man would be foolish who hesitated between death 



THE MARRIAGE OF MAYA 285 

and so fair and sweet a bride. Still, this is a matter that I 
cannot decide alone. What says the Lady Maya ? " 

" She says," answered Maya, " that although this is a 
marriage for which she did not look, and it is a new thing 
that a daughter of the Heart should take a stranger of less 
ancient blood to husband, the will of Heaven is her will, 
and the lord that Heaven chooses for her shall be her 
lord," and she stretched out her hand to the sefior. 

He took it, and, bending down, kissed her fingers, say- 
ing : 

" May I be worthy of your choice, Lady." 

Now I thought that the ceremonies were finished, and 
was glad, for I grew weary of assisting at this farce, but 
the old priest, Zibalbay's foster-brother, rose and said : 

" One thing more must be done, Brethren, before we 
leave this Sanctuary, and it is to swear in these strangers 
as members of the Council. They have wandered here 
from far, and here with us they must live and die, seeing 
that both of them know our secrets, and one of them is 
predestined to become the father of that great lord for 
whose arising we have looked for many generations, and 
therefore, until the child is born, he must be watched and 
guarded as priests watch a sacred fire." 

" Ay ! it is well thought of. Let them be sworn, and 
learn that to break the oath is death," was the answer. 

Then Mattai rose, as Keeper of the Sanctuary, and said : 

" You, White Man, Son of the Sea, and you, Ignatio, the 
Wanderer, a Lord of the Heart, do swear upon the holy 
symbol of the Heart, the oath to break which is to die 
horribly in this world and to be lost everlastingly in the 
worlds that are to be. You swear, setting in pledge your 
souls and bodies for the fulfilment of the oath, that neither 
by word nor sign nor deed will you reveal aught of the 
mysteries or the councils of this Brotherhood, whereof you 
will be the faithful servants till your deaths, holding it 
supreme above every power upon earth. You swear that 

x 



286 HEART OF THE WORLD 

you will not possess yourselves of the treasures of the City 
of the Heart, nor, without the consent of this high Brother- 
hood, attempt to leave its gates or to bring any stranger 
within its walls. These things you swear with your hands 
upon the altar, setting in pledge your souls and bodies for 
the fulfilment of the oath." 

Other clauses there were also which I have forgotten, 
but this was the substance of the vow that was dictated to 
us. We looked at each other helplessly, and then, there 
being no escape, we swore, kneeling before the altar, with 
our hands resting upon it. 

As the solemn words of confirmation passed our lips, we 
heard a sound of the movement of heavy stones behind us. 

" Arise now," said the old priest, " turn, Brethren, and 
look upon that which lies behind you." 

"We obeyed, and the next instant shrank back against 
the altar in alarm, for within six feet of us a massive stone 
in the floor had been lifted, revealing the mouth of a well, 
from the deep recesses of which came the distant sound of 
rushing waters. 

"Behold, Brethren," he went on, " and should the oath 
which you have sworn be broken in a single letter, learn 
after what fashion you must suffer for your sins. Into that 
pit you shall be cast, that the water may choke your breath, 
and the demons of the under-world may prey upon your 
souls through all eternity. Have you seen, and, seeing, do 
you understand ? " 

" We have seen, and we understand," we answered. 

" Then let the mouth of the pit be sealed again, and 
pray you in your hearts that it may never be opened to re- 
ceive the living body of you or of any of us. Son of the 
Sea, and you, Ignatio the Wanderer, the oaths have been 
sworn, and the ceremony is finished. Henceforth till your 
deaths you are of our number, sharers in our rights and 
privileges, and to you will be assigned houses, attendants 
and revenues fitted to your station. Go forth, Brethren, 



THE MARRIAGE OF MAYA 287 

that you may ref resli yourselves, and prepare to meet the 
people upon the summit of the pyramid at dawn ; that is, 
within an hour. Lead them away with you, my Lord 
Mattai." 

So we went, leaving behind us the talisman of the 
Broken Heart, for the priests refused to return it to me, 
saying that at length the tokens named Day and Night had 
come together in their ancient place, and henceforth there 
they must bide for ever. Accompanied by Maya, Mattai, 
and the escort of priests, we passed through the halls and 
passages out into the courtyard of the temple, and thence 
to apartments in the palace, where we refreshed ourselves 
with food, for we were weary. 

The trick had succeeded, the ordeal was past, and for 
the present at least we were no longer in danger of our 
lives : more, the power of Mattai was confirmed, and his 
daughter was assured in her position as the wife of Tikal ; 
and the sefior and the Lady Maya were about to attain to 
the fulness of their desire, and to be declared one in the 
presence of the people. Yet never did I partake of a 
sadder meal, or behold faces more oppressed by care and 
the fear of the future ; for, though nothing was said, in our 
hearts each of us knew that we had become parties to a 
crime, and that sooner or later, in this way or in that, our 
evil-doing would find us out. Putting this matter aside, I 
myself had good reason to mourn, seeing that, whatever the 
others had gained, I had won nothing ; moreover I found 
myself bound by a solemn oath not even to attempt to 
leave this city whither I had journeyed with such high 
hopes. Well, the thing was done, and it was useless to re- 
gret it or to think of the future, so, turning to Mattai, I 
asked him what was to happen on the pyramid. 

" There will be a great gathering of the people," he 
answered, "as is customary at dawn after the night of the 
Rising of Waters, and there they will be told all that has 



288 HEART OF THE WORLD 

happened in the Sanctuary, and then, if it is their will, 
Tikal will be confirmed as cacique according to the bar- 
gain, and either to-day or to-morrow the white man here 
will become the husband of the Lady Maya, in order " he 
added with a sneer " that of their union may be born the 
Deliverer who is to be. Now, if you are ready, it is time 
for us to go, for the multitude is gathered, and an escort 
waits us without/' 

Leaving the palace we placed ourselves in the centre of 
a party of nobles and guards who were in attendance, and 
marched across the courtyard and up the steps of the 
pyramid. The night was growing grey with the breaking 
of the dawn, and in the pearly light, through which the 
stars shone faintly, we perceived that bands of priests and 
nobles, wrapped in their broidered serapes, for the morn- 
ing air was chilly, stood in their appointed places round 
the altar. In front of them were ranged the dense masses 
of the people, drawn here to make their prayers upon this 
feast day, and also by desire to learn the truth as to the 
death of Zibalbay ; the fate of the strangers who had ac- 
companied him from the unknown lands ; the decision of 
the Council as to the successor to the place and power of 
cacique ; and lastly, whether or no the oracle of the god 
had spoken to his priests upon this or any other matter 
when the lost talisman was set in its place in the Sanctu- 
ary. 

On reaching the altar, seats were given to us among the 
nobles of the Heart, those of Maya and the sefior being 
placed in such fashion that they would be visible to the 
whole multitude. 

Then followed a silence, till at length a priest who was 
stationed upon the roof of the watch-house blew a silver 
trumpet and proclaimed that the dawn was broken, where- 
on bands of singers who were in readiness began to chant a 
very beautiful hymn of which the refrain was caught up 
by the audience. As they sang, a beam from the rising sun 



THE MARRIAGE OF MAYA 289 

struck upon the fire that burned above the altar, and again 
the trumpet sounded. Then, in the silence that f olloAved, 
the priest who stood by the fire, clothed in white robes, 
prayed in a loud voice, saying : 

" god, our god, let our sins die with the dying year. 
god, our god, strengthen us with thy strength, comfort 
us with thy comfort during the day that is to be. god, 
our god, have pity upon us, lift us from the darkness of the 
past, and give us light in the coming time. Hear us, Heart 
of Heaven, hear us ! " 

He ceased, and from the surrounding gloom many voices 
made response, saving : " Hear us, Heart of Heaven, hear 
us!" 

Then for a space the old priest stood still, the firelight 
flickering on his tall form and rapt countenance as he gazed 
towards the east. Greyer and more grey grew the gloom, 
till of a sudden a ray from the unrisen sun shot through 
the shadows like a spear and fell athwart the summit of the 
pyramid, paling the holy fire, that seemed to shrink before 
it. At the coming of the sunbeam the multitude of wor- 
shippers men and women together rose from the marble 
pavement whereon they had been kneeling in prayer, and, 
casting off the dark cloaks which covered their white robes, 
they turned, extending their arms towards the east, and 
cried with one accord : 

" Hail to thee, sun ! bringer of all good things. Hail 
to thee, new-born child of god ! " 

Now the light grew fast, and soon the city appeared, ris- 
ing white and beautiful from its veil of mist ; and, as the 
glory of the daylight fell upon it, other priests who stood by 
the altar uttered prayers appointed to be offered upon this 
day of the beginning of the Rising of Waters. To the 
People of the Heart the occasion was a great one, seeing 
that but little rain falls in their country, and thus they de- 
pended for a bountiful harvest upon the inundation of the 
island and of the low shores that lay around the lake by its 



290 HEART OF THE WORLD 

waters swollen with the melted snow of the great moun- 
tains on the mainland. When the waters retreated, then 
they planted their grain in rich land made fertile by the 
mud, without labour to themselves, whence, before the lake 
rose again, they gathered their corn and other crops. 

When they had ended their praying, and gifts of fresh 
flowers had been laid upon the altar by beautiful children 
chosen for that purpose, Tikal blessed the multitude as 
high priest, and the simple ceremony came to an end. 

Then Mattai rose to speak, telling the people all things 
that had happened, or so much of them as it was expedient 
that they should know. He told them of the death of 
Zibalbay, of the setting of the lost talisman in the symbol, 
and of the writing that was found therein, which he read 
aloud to them amidst a dead silence. Then he told them 
how the Lady Maya and the white man had consented to be 
married in obedience to the voice of the oracle ; and lastly, 
how she, the Lady Maya, had desired that her cousin Tikal 
should continue to be cacique of the City of the Heart, that 
she might have more leisure to attend upon her heaven- 
sent husband, and to be at rest until that child was become 
a man, whose wisdom and power should make them even 
greater than their forefathers had been. 

When he had finished his address there was much ap- 
plause and other expressions of joy, and a spokesman from 
among the people asked when the marriage of the white 
man, Son of the Sea, to the Lady Maya, would take place. 

This question she answered in person, saying modestly 
that it was her lord's will that it should take place that 
very night in the banqueting-hall of the palace, and that a 
great feast should be celebrated in honour of it. 

After this the talking came to an end, Tikal having said 
no word, good or bad, beyond such as the duties of his office 
required ; and according to the custom of the country many 
people, noble and simple, came forward to congratulate her 
who was about to be made a bride. Weary of watching 



THE MARRIAGE OF MAYA 2gi 

them and of hearing their pretty speeches, I took advantage 
of the escort of a friendly noble and went to see the cere- 
mony of the closing of the flood-gate, a huge block of marble 
that slid down a groove into a niche prepared to receive it, 
where it was fastened with great bars of copper and sealed 
by certain officers, although, so I was told, the rising water 
would not reach it for another eight or ten days. Even 
though the flood should prove to be a low one, it was death 
to break those seals for a space of four full months, and 
during all this time any who would leave the city must do 
so by means of ladders reaching from the wall to little 
wooden jetties, where boats were moored. Afterwards we 
walked round the walls and through some of the main 
streets, and I marvelled at the greatness of this half -de- 
serted place, for the most of it was in ruins, and at the 
many strange sights that I saw in it. Indeed, I think that 
Mexico, in the time of Montezuma, my forefather, was not 
more powerful or populous than this town must have been 
in the days of its prosperity. 

About midday I returned to the apartments that had 
been assigned to me in the palace, and, hearing that the 
sefior was still in attendance upon the Lady Maya, I ate 
my dinner alone with such appetite as I could find, and lay 
down to sleep awhile. 

I was awakened from my rest by the sefior, who arrived, 
looking merry as he used to be before ever Molas came to 
lead us to the old Indian doctor and his daughter, and full 
of talk about the preparations for his wedding that night. 
I listened to all he had to say, and strove earnestly to fall 
into his mood, but, as I suppose, without effect, for in the 
end he fell into mine, which was but a sad one, and began 
to talk regretfully of the past and doubtfully of the future. 
Now I did my best to cheer him, but with little avail, for 
he shook his head and said : 

" Indian as she is, I love Maya, and no other woman has 
been or can be so much to me ; and yet I am afraid, Igna- 



292 HEART- OF THE WORLD 

tio, for this marriage is ill-omened,, and I pray that what 
was begun in trickery may not end in desolation. Also 
the future is black both for you and for me. You came 
here for a certain purpose and will desire to leave again to 
follow your purpose; nor, although I take this lady to 
wife, do I wish to spend my days in the City of the Heart. 
And yet it would seem that, unless we can escape, this is 
what we must do." 

" Let us hope that we shall be able to escape," I answered. 

" I doubt it," he said, "for already I have discovered 
that, though we be treated with all honour, yet we shall 
be closely watched, or at least I shall, for certain reasons. 
Still, come what may, I trust that this marriage will make 
no breach in our friendship, Ignatio." 

"I do not know, sefior," I answered, "though I think 
that for weeks its shadow has lain between us, and I fear 
lest that shadow should deepen. Also it has been fated 
that women and their loves should come between me, my 
ambitions, and my friends. From the moment that my 
eyes fell upon the Lady Maya bound to the altar in the 
chapel of the hacienda, I felt that her great beauty would 
bring trouble upon us, and it would seem that my heart 
did not lie to me. Now, under her guidance, we have en- 
tered upon a dark and doubtful path, whereof no man can 
see the end." 

" Yes," he answered, "but we took that path in order 
to save our lives." 

" She took it, not to save her life, on which I think she 
sets little store, but to win a husband whom she desires. 
For my part I hold that it would have been better for us 
to die, if God so willed it, than to live on with hearts 
fouled by deceit, seeing that in the end die we must, but 
no years of added life can wear away that stain. Well, 
this must seem sad talk to the ears of a bridegroom. For- 
get it, friend, and rest awhile that you may do credit to 
the marriage-feast." 



THE MARRIAGE OF MAYA 293 

"Without answering, the seilor lay down upon the bed, 
where he remained whether sleeping or awake I do not 
know till the hour of sunset, when he was aroused by the 
arrival of several lords and attendants who came to lead 
him to the bath. On his return other messengers entered, 
bearing magnificent robes and jewels, the gift of the Lady 
Maya, to be worn by him and by me at the ceremony. 
Then, barbers having trimmed and scented his fair hair and 
beard according to the fashion of this people, he was decked 
out like a victim for the sacrifice. 

So soon as all was prepared, the doors were flung wide, 
and six officers of the palace came through them, bearing 
wands of office in their hands, accompanied by a troop of 
singing-girls chosen for their loveliness, which, to speak 
truth, was not small. In the midst of these officers and 
ladies the senor was placed, and, followed by myself, who 
walked behind with a heavy heart, he set out for the ban- 
queting-hall. As Ave reached it the doors were thrown 
open and the singers set up a love song, pretty enough, 
but so foolish that I have forgotten it. We passed the 
threshold and found that the great hall was crowded with 
guests arrayed in their most brilliant attire, whereon the 
lamplight shone bravely. Through this company we 
walked till AVO reached an open space at the far end of 
the hall, around which in a semicircle sat the members 
of the Council of the Heart, Tikal and his wife being placed 
in the centre of them, having Mattai on their right, and on 
their left that old priest Dimas, the foster-brother of Zi- 
balbay, who had administered the oath to us. 

As we advanced, with one exception, all the Council rose 
and bowed to the senor. That exception was Tikal, who 
stared straight before him and did not move. Scarcely 
had they resumed their seats when the sound of singing 
was heard again, mingled with that cf music, and far away 
at the foot of the long hall appeared a band of musicians 
playing upon pipes of reeds, clad in the royal livery of 



294 HEART OF THE WORLD 

green, and crowned with oak-leaves. After the musicians 
marched, or rather danced, a number of young girls robed 
in white only, and carrying white lilies in their hands, 
which they threw upon the floor to be trodden by the feet 
of the bride. Next came Maya herself, a sight of beauty 
such as stirred even my cold heart, and caused me to think 
more gently of the sefior, who had become party to a trick 
to win her. he also was arrayed in white, embroidered 
with gold, and having the symbol of the Heart blazoned 
on her breast ; about her waist and neck were a girdle and 
collar of priceless emeralds ; on her head was set a tiara of 
perfect pearls taken in past ages from the shell-fish of the 
lake, and round her wrists and ankles were bangles of dead 
gold. Her waving hair hung loose almost to her sandalled 
feet, and in her hand, as token of her rank, she bore a 
little golden sceptre, having at one end a great pearl, and 
at the other a heart-shaped emerald. On she came, or 
rather floated, her delicate head held high ; and so strange 
and beautiful was the aspect of her face, that for my part, 
from the instant that I beheld it till she stood before me 
by the bridegroom, I seemed to see naught else. It was 
very pale and somewhat set ; indeed at that moment Maya 
looked more like a white woman than one of Indian blood, 
and her curved lips were parted as though they waited for 
some forgotten words to pass them. Her deep-blue eyes 
also were set wide, and, beneath the shadow of their lashes, 
seemed full of mystery and wonder, like the eyes of one 
who walks in her sleep and beholds things invisible to the 
waking sight. Presently they fell upon the eyes of the 
sefior, and of a sudden grew human, while the red blood 
mantled on her breast and arms and brow. 

Then for me the spell was broken, and I glanced at 
Tikal and saw that on his face was that same look with 
which he had greeted Maya when, on the night of his own 
wedding-feast, he beheld her whom he believed to be dead, 
standing before him clothed in life and beauty. Eagerly, 



THE MARRIAGE OF MAYA 295 

despairingly, he watched her, and I noticed that tears stood 
in his angry eyes, and that a gust of jealous rage shook him 
from head to foot when he saw her flush with joy at the 
sight of his white rival. From Tikal my glance travelled 
to the dark beauty at his side, Nahua, his wife, and I be- 
came aware that in this instant she grew certain of what 
perhaps before she only guessed, that in his heart her hus- 
band loathed her, as with all his soul and strength he loved 
the affianced of his youth who stood before him the bride 
of another man. Doubt, fear, rage looked out in turn 
from her ominous eyes as the knowledge went home, to be 
succeeded by a possessing misery, the misery of one who 
knows that all which makes life good to her is for ever lost. 
Then, pressing her hands to her heart for a moment, she 
turned aside to hide her shame and wretchedness, and 
when she looked up again her face was calm as the face of 
a statue, but on it was frozen a mask of unchanging hate, 
hate of the woman who had robbed her. 

Now the bridegroom and the bride stood together in the 
open space surrounded by the half circle of the Council of 
the Heart, among whom I was given a seat, while behind 
them were arranged the musicians and singing-girls, and 
behind these again pressed the glittering audience of mar- 
riage-guests. When all were in their places a herald rose 
and cried out the names and titles of the pair, reciting 
briefly that they were to be wed by the direct command of 
the guardian god of the city, by the wish of the Council of 
the Heart, and because of the love that they bore one an- 
other. Next, reading from a written roll, he published the 
text of the agreement whereby Maya renounced her right 
as ruler in favour of her cousin Tikal, and I noticed that 
this agreement was received by the' company in cold silence 
and with some few expressions of disapproval. Lastly, 
from another roll he read the list of the honours, preroga- 
tives, offices, wealth, houses, and servants which were 
thereby assigned to the Lady Maya and her consort, and 



296 HEART OF THE WORLD 

also to myself their friend, for the maintenance of their 
rank and dignity and of my comfort. 

Having finished his task, he asked the seflor and Maya 
whether they had heard all that he had read by command 
of the Council, and, if so, whether they approved thereof. 
They bowed their heads in assent, whereupon the herald 
turned, and, addressing Tikal by all his titles, called upon 
him, in virtue of his priestly office and of his position as 
chief of the state, to make these two one in the face of 
the people, according to the ancient custom of the land. 

Tikal heard him and rose from his seat as though to 
commence the service, then sank down again, saying : 

"Seek some other priest, Herald, for this thing I will 
not do/' 



CHAPTER XXII 

MATTAI PROPHESIES EVIL 

AT Tikal's words the company murmured in astonishment, 
and Mattai, bending forward, began to whisper in his ear. 
Tikal listened for a moment, then turned upon him fiercely 
and said aloud, so that all could hear him : 

' ' I tell you, Mattai, that I will be no party to this ini- 
quity. Has such a thing been heard of before, that the 
Lady of the Heart, the highest lady in the land, should be 
given in marriage to a stranger who, like some lost dog, 
has wandered to our gate ? " 

" The prophecy " began Mattai. 

" The prophecy ! I put no faith in prophecies. Why 
should I obey a prophecy written how, when, or by whom 
I do not know ? This lady was my affianced bride, and 
now I am asked to unite her to a nameless man who is not 
even of our blood or faith. Well, I will not." 



MATTAI PROPHESIES EVIL 297 

" Surely, lord, you blaspheme," answered Mattai, grow- 
ing wrath, "seeing that it is not for the high priest to 
speak against the oracle of the god. Also," he added, with 
meaning, " what can it be to you, who are not ten days 
wed to the lady at your side, that she to whom once you 
were affianced should choose another as her husband ? " 

"What is it to me? "said Tikal, furiously. "If you 
desire to know, I will tell you. It is everything. How did 
I come to break my troth and to take your daughter as a 
wife ? Through you, Mattai, through you, the liar and the 
false prophet. Did you not swear to me that Maya was 
dead yonder in the wilderness ? And did you not, to sat- 
isfy your own ambitions, force me on to take your daughter 
to wife ? Ay ! and is not this marriage between the Lady 
of the Heart and the white man a plot of yours devised for 
the furthering of your ends ? " 

Now, while all stood astonished, of a sudden Nahua, who 
hitherto had listened in stony silence, rose and said : 

"The Lord Tikal, my husband, forgets that common 
courtesy should protect even an unwelcome wife from pub- 
lic insult." Then she turned and left the hall by the door 
which was behind her. 

Now a murmur of pity for the lady, and indignation at 
the man, ran through the company, and as it died away 
Tikal said : " Evil will come of this night's work, and in it 
I will have no hand. Do what you will, and abide the 
issue," and before any could speak in answer he also had 
left the hall, followed by his guards. 

For a while there was silence, then men began to talk 
confusedly, and some of the members of the Brotherhood 
of the Heart, rising from their chairs, took hurried counsel 
together. At length they reseated themselves, and, hold- 
ing up his hand to secure silence, Mattai spoke thus : 

" Forgive me," he said, addressing the audience, "if my 
words seem few and rough, but it is hard for me to be calm 
in face of the open insult which has been put upon my 



298 HEART OF THE WORLD 

daughter and myself before you all. I will not stoop to 
answer the charges that the Lord Tikal has brought against 
me in his rage. Surely some evil power must have afflicted 
him with madness, that, forgetting his honour as a man, 
and his duty as a prince and priest, he should dare to utter 
such calumnies against the god we worship, the white man 
whom the god has chosen to be a husband to the Lady 
Maya, and myself, the Keeper of the Sanctuary. There 
were many among you who held me foolish when, after 
much prayer and thought, to further what I believed to be 
the true interests of the whole people, I gave my voice in 
favour of the lifting up of Tikal to fill the place and hon- 
our of cacique in room of our late prince, Zibalbay, whom 
we thought dead with his daughter in the wilderness. To- 
day I see that they were right, and that I was foolish in- 
deed. But enough of regrets and bitter talk, that make ill 
music at a marriage-feast. Tikal, the head of our hierarchy, 
has gone, but other priests are left, nor is his will the will 
of the Council, or of the People of the Heart for whom the 
Council speaks. Their will it is that this marriage should 
go forward, and Dimas, my brother, as the oldest among 
us, I call upon you to celebrate it." 

Now the company shouted in applause, for they were set 
upon this strange union of a white man with their lady, if 
only because it was a new thing and touched their imagina- 
tion ; and even those of them who were of his party were 
wrath with Tikal on account of his ill behaviour and the 
cruel affront that he had offered to his new-made wife. 

So soon as the tumult had died away, the old priest 
Dimas rose, and, taking the hands of Maya and the seiior, 
he joined them and said a very touching and beautiful 
prayer over them, blessing them, and entreating the spirit, 
Heart of Heaven, and other gods, to give them increase 
and to make them happy in a mutual love. Lastly, he 
laid a white silken cloth, which had been prepared, upon 
their heads as they knelt before him, and, loosing the 



MATTAI PROPHESIES EVIL 299 

emerald girdle from about the waist of the bride, he took 
her right hand and placed it upon the arm of the sefior, 
then he bound the girdle round wrist and arm, buckled it, 
and in a few solemn words declared these twain to be man 
and wife in the face of Heaven and earth till death undid 
them. 

Now the cloth was lifted and the girdle loosed, and, stand- 
ing upon their feet, the new-wed pair kissed each other be- 
fore the people. A shout of joy went up that shook the 
panelled roof, and one by one, in order of their rank, the 
guests pressed forward to wish happiness to the bride and 
bridegroom, most of them bringing some costly and beau- 
tiful gift, which they gave into the charge of the waiting- 
ladies. Last of all came the old priest Dimas, and laid : 

" Sweet bride, the gift that I am commanded by the 
Council to make to you, though of little value in itself, is 
yet one of the most precious to be found within the walls of 
this ancient city, being nothing less than the holy symbol of 
the all-seeing Eye of the Heart of Heaven, which, through 
you, men behold to-day for the first time for many genera- 
tions. Wear it always, lady, and remember that though 
this jewel has no sight, yet that Eye, whereof it is a token, 
from hour to hour reads your most secret soul and pur- 
pose. Make your thoughts, then, as fair as is your body, 
and let your breast harbour neither guile nor evil ; for of all 
these things, in a day to come, you must surely give ac- 
count." 

As he spoke he drew from the case that hid it nothing 
less than that awful Eye which we had seen within the hol- 
low of the Heart, when with unhallowed hands we robbed 
it, substituting the false for the true. Now it had been set 
in a band of gold and hung to a golden chain which he 
placed about the neck of the bride, so that the red and cruel- 
looking gem lay gleaming on her naked breast. Maya 
bowed and muttered some words of thanks, but I saw that 
her spirit failed her at the touch of the ominous thing, for 



300 HEART OF THE WORLD 

she turned faint and would have fallen had not her husband 
caught her by the arm. 

While the seflor and his wife were receiving gifts and 
listening to pretty speeches, a number of attendants had 
brought tables laden with every sort of food from behind 
the pillars where they had been prepared, and at a signal 
the feast began. It was long and joyous, though joy seemed 
to have faded from the face of Maya, who sat neither eat- 
ing nor drinking, but from time to time lifting the red eye 
from her breast as though it scorched her skin. At length 
she rose, and, accompanied by her husband, walked bowing 
down the hall to the court-yard, where bearers waited for 
them with carrying-chairs. In these they seated themselves, 
and a procession having been formed, very long and splen- 
did, though I Avill not stay to describe it, we started to march 
round the great square to the sound of music and singing, 
our path being lit by the light of the moon and with hun- 
dreds of torches. Here in this square were gathered all 
the population of the City of the Heart, men, women, and 
children, to greet the bride, each of them bearing flowers 
and a flaming torch ; and never have I seen any sight more 
beautiful than this of their welcome. 

The circuit of the square being accomplished, the pro- 
cession halted at the palace gates, and many hands were 
stretched out to help the bride and bridegroom from their 
litters. It was at this moment that I, who was stand- 
ing near, felt a man wrapped in a large feather cloak 
push past me, and saw that he held something which 
gleamed like a knife. 

By instinct, as it were, I cried, " Beware, my friend ! " 
in Spanish, and in so piercing a voice that it caught the 
senor's ear. He swung round, for already he was standing 
on his feet, and, as he turned, the man in the cloak rushed 
at him and stabbed with the knife. But, being warned, the 
seflor was too quick for him. Springing to one side, with 
the same movement he dealt his would-be murderer a great 



MATTAI PROPHESIES EVIL 30 1 

buffet, that caused him to drop the dagger and sent him 
staggering into the dense shadow of the archway. 

For some seconds no one seemed to understand what had 
happened, and when they did and began to search for the 
man, he was not to be found. Who he was, or why he had 
attempted this cowardly deed, was never discovered ; but for 
my part I have little doubt that either Tikal himself or 
some creature of his was wrapped in the dark feather cloak, 
and sought thus to rid him of his rival. Indeed, as time 
went on, this belief took firm hold of the mind of the people, 
and was one of the causes that led to the sapping of TikaPs 
power and popularity. 

Very hastily the sefior assured the lords in attendance 
who crowded round him that he had received no manner of 
hurt, and then, after speaking a few brief words of thanks, 
he withdrew into the palace with his wife, and I saw him 
no more that night. 

The day of this marriage was to me the beginning of the 
longest and most weary year that ever I have spent in a long 
and weary life. Very soon I understood how it came about 
that Maya had learned to hate the City of the Heart in 
which she was born, its people, and its ways, and ardently 
to desire a new life in new lands. Here there was no change 
and little work ; here, enervated by a cloying luxury, the 
poor remnant of a great civilisation rotted slowly to its fall, 
and none lifted a hand to save it. Since men must do some- 
thing, the priests and nobles plotted for place and power 
indeed, and the common people listlessly followed this trade 
or that, providing food and raiment for the community, 
not for themselves, but there was little heart in what they 
did, and they took no pleasure in it. Basking in the eternal 
sunshine, they loitered from the cradle to the grave, hop- 
ing nothing, suffering nothing, fearing nothing, content to 
feast amid their crumbling palaces, and, when they were 
weary, to sleep till it was time to feast again, satisfying 

Y 



302 HEART OF THE WORLD 

their souls the while with the husks of a faith whereof they 
had lost the meaning. Such were the people of whom Zi- 
balbay hoped to fashion a race of conquerors ! 

Still, to this life they were born and it became them ; 
indeed, they could have endured no other, for the breath 
of hardship must have melted them away as my Indian 
forefathers melted beneath the iron rule of the Spaniard, 
but to me it was a daily torment. Often I have beheld 
some wild creature pine and die in its prison, though food 
was given to it in greater abundance than it could find 
in its native woods, and like that wild creature was I in 
this soft City of the Heart. 

The wealth I came to seek was round me in abundance, 
useless and unproductive as the dead hands that had stored 
it, and yonder in Mexico were men who by aid of that 
wealth might become free and great : but alas ! I could 
not bring them together. I could not even escape from 
my gaol, for my every movement was watched. Yet I 
would have tried so to do had it not been for the seilor, 
who, when I spoke of it, said I should be no true friend if 
I went and left him alone in this house of strangers. In- 
deed his plight was worse than mine, for he too soon grew 
utterly weary of this dreadful city of eternal summer, and 
of everything in it except his wife. For whole hours we 
would sit gazing on the wide waters of the lake, and make 
plan after plan whereby we might gain the mountains and 
freedom, only to abandon each in turn. For they were 
hopeless. Day and night he was watched, since here alone 
this people forgot to be indolent. They knew that their 
race was dying and, lifting no hand to save themselves, 
they preferred to pin their faith upon the prophecy which 
promised that from this white man should spring a saviour. 
Meanwhile, false though it may have been, the prophecy, 
or one part of it, was in the way of fulfilment, which in 
itself was a wonder to this people, among whom the births 
of children were so rare. At length that child was born 



MATT A I PROPHESIES EVIL 303 

a son and the rejoicing knew no bounds. Strangely 
enough, upon the same day Nahua also gave birth to a son, 
and great was her anger when she learned that it was not 
on her account or on that of her offspring that the people 
were so glad. 

Within a few days of the sefior's marriage we heard that 
Mattai had been seized with sickness, a kind of palsy, to- 
gether with a leprous condition of the arms that baffled all 
skill. For months he lay in his house, growing gradually 
worse, so said the physicians ; but one night I remember 
that it was three days previous to the birth of Maya's 
child he appeared before Maya, the sefior, and myself, as 
we sat together in the palace looking out upon the moonlit 
garden. At first we did not know him, for never before had 
I seen a sight so dreadful. His body was bloated ; one arm 
his left was swathed in bandages ; his head shook inces- 
santly ; and the leprosy had seized his face, which was of a 
livid hue. 

" Do not shrink from me," he began, in a low and qua- 
vering voice, as he gazed upon us with his whitening eyes ; 
" surely you should not shrink, seeing that all of you are 
partners in the crime that has made of me the loathsome 
thing I am. Ay ! deny it if you will, but I know it. 
The vengeance of the god has fallen upon me, his false 
servant, and it has fallen justly. Moreover, be assured 
that on you also shall that vengeance fall, for the Eye has 
seen, the Mouth has told, and the Heart has thought upon 
your doom. Look upon me, and learn how rich are the 
wages of him who works iniquity, and by my sufferings 
strive to count the measure of your own. Perchance your 
cup is not yet full ; perchance you have still greater sins to 
work : but vengeance shall come I tell you that vengeance 
shall come here and hereafter. I did this thing for my 
daughter's sake ; yes, for love of her, my only child. She 
was ambitious and she desired this man, and I thought to 
assure greatness to her and to her children after her. 



HEART OF THE WORLD 

" But see how her wine has been turned to vinegar, and 
her pleasant fruits to ashes. Her husband hates her with 
an ever-growing hate ; now they scarcely speak, or speak 
only to shower bitter words upon each other's head. More, 
not for long will Tikal be cacique of the City of the Heart, 
for his jealous rage has soured all his mind ; his deeds are 
deeds of oppression and injustice ; already he is detested 
by the people, and even those who loved him turn from 
him and plot against him. Do you know what they plot ? 
They plot to make that child that shall be born of you, 
Maya, cacique in his room, and to set up you and your 
outland husband as regents till it shall be of an age to 
govern. Oh ! you have planned cunningly, and things 
look well for you, but I say that they shall not prosper. 

" The curse is on you, Ignatio, Lord of the Heart, for all 
your high-built hopes shall fall like a rotted roof, and 
never shall the eagles of that empire you have dreamed of 
be broidered on your banners. Slaves are the people you 
have toiled for, and slaves they shall remain, for by the 
crime to which you gave consent, Ignatio, you have rivet- 
ted their fetters. The curse is on your child, Maya, never 
shall it live to become a man : the curse is on your hus- 
band, his hair shall not grow grey. But heaviest of all 
does the curse rest upon you, false Lady of the Heart, you, 
whose life is one long lie ; you, who forsook your faith and 
broke your oath ; you, who turned you from yotir people 
and from the law of your high and ancient house, that you 
might win a wandering white man to your arms. Woman, 
we shall meet no more ; but in the hour of your last misery, 
and in the long, long ages of the eternal punishment, re- 
member the words that I speak to you to-day, " and, shak- 
ing his withered arm in our faces, Mattai turned and limped 
from the chamber. 

He went, and we sat gazing at each other in horror, for 
though we none of us had any faith in the god he wor- 
shipped, in our hearts we felt that this man spoke truth, 



MATTAI PROPHESIES EVIL 35 

and that evil would overtake us. For a moment Maya hid 
her face in her hands and wept ; then she sprang up, and a 
fire in her eyes had dried her tears. 

" So let it be," she cried, " I care nothing. At the least 
I won you, my love, and for some months, through all our 
troubles, I have been happy at your side, and, come good, 
come ill, nothing can rob me of my memories. But for 
you I fear. Husband, I fear for you " 

Then, her passion past, she flung herself into his arms 
and again began to weep. 

In due course the child was born, a beautiful boy, 
almost white in colour, with his mother's star-like eyes ; 
and on this same night we learned that Mattai had died in 
much torment, and that Nahua was delivered of a son. 

Eighteen days went by, and Maya, new-risen from her 
bed, was seated Avith her husband and myself, while behind 
us stood a waiting-lady holding the sleeping infant in her 
arms, when it was announced to us that an embassy of the 
great lords of the Council sought speech with her. Pres- 
ently they entered, and the spokesman, the Lord Dimas, 
bowed before her and set out his mission, saying : 

"We have come to you, Lady of the Heart, on behalf of 
the Council and of the people, to rejoice with you in your 
great happiness, and to lay certain matters of the state 
before you. For some months the people have grown 
weary of the oppressions and cruelties of Tikal, who in 
defiance of the laws of the land has put many to death on 
suspicion of their being concerned in plots against his 
power. Further, but yesterday it came to the ears of the 
Council, through the confession of one whom he had em- 
ployed to execute his wickedness, that a plan was laid to 
murder your husband, your child, and the Lord Ignatio 
here." 

"Indeed," said Maya, 'and why was my name omitted 
from this list ? " 



306 HEART OF THE WORLD 

"Lady, we do not know," he answered, "but it seems 
that the assassins had orders to take you living, and to hide 
you away in a secret part of Tikal's house." 

Now the senor sprang to his feet and swore a great oath 
to be avenged upon Tikal. 

"Nay, lord," said Dimas, " his person is holy and must 
not be touched, nor need you have any further fear of him, 
for those whom he corrupted await their trial, and he him- 
self is watched by day and night. Also, not for long will 
Tikal remain cacique of the City of the Heart ; for the 
Council have met in a secret session to which you were not 
summoned, and have decreed that he shall be deposed be- 
cause of his iniquities, and in accordance with the desire of 
the people." 

" Can a cacique be deposed ? " asked Maya. 

" Yes, lady, if he has broken the law, for was not your 
father to be deposed for this same reason ? Also, Tikal 
holds his place, not by right of birth, but by treaty. You 
are the true heir to Zibalbay, Lady of the Heart." 

"It may be so," she answered coldly, "but I have re- 
nounced my claim and I do not desire to go back upon my 
word." 

"If you have renounced it," said Dimas, "there is one 
to whom it passes," and he pointed to the sleeping infant. < 
" Yonder is the Child of Prophecy, hope of the people, and 
he it is whom we purpose to crown as our ruler, setting you 
and your husband up to act for him till he reaches his full 
age." 

"Nay," said Maya, "for thus shall he become the mark 
of Tikal's rage and be put to death, openly or in secret, 
as it may chance." 

" Not so, lady, for in that hour when he is proclaimed, 
Tikal will be taken into safe keeping, where he shall abide 
for so long as his life lasts." 

" And when is this to be," asked the sefior. 

" To-morrow, at noon, upon the pyramid, that the child 



MATTAI PROPHESIES EVIL 37 

may be solemnly anointed three days hence in the Sanctu- 
ary, on the night of the Eising of Waters." 

"It is foolish to crown a babe, and neither I nor my 
husband seek this greatness/' said Maya. "If Tikal is to 
be deposed because of his crimes, let one of the great lords 
be set in his place until the child is old enough to rule/' 

"Although you and your husband are to command us in 
the future," answered Dimas, sternly, " till then you must 
obey, Lady, for the voice of the Council is supreme, and it 
carries out the will of its founder and invisible president, 
the Heart of Heaven. The Council has determined that 
the heaven-sent child, of whom you are the earthly parents, 
must take his own." 

"As you will," said Maya, with a sigh; and presently 
they went. 

That evening the senor and I attended a feast at the 
house of one of the great nobles, whence we returned 
somewhat late. Having dismissed those who had escorted 
us, I walked with him as far as the door of his private 
chambers, purposing to leave him there ; but he bade me 
enter, for he wished to talk with me about the events of 
the day and this forthcoming ceremony of the anointing of 
the child. Accordingly I did so, and, passing through the 
first chamber, we came to the second, beyond which lay his 
sleeping-rooms. Here we halted by the open window, and I 
approached a lamp, for I wished to smoke and had no light. 
As I bent over it, something caught my ear, and I list- 
ened, since it seemed to me that through the massive 
doors of the bedchamber I heard the sound of a woman's 
voice crying for help. Instantly I flung them open and 
rushed thither by way of an ante-room, calling to the senor 
as I went. 

I did not arrive too soon, for in the bedchamber itself a 
strange sight met my eyes. At the foot of the bed stood a 
cradle, in which lay the child, and near to it two women 



HEART OF THE WORLD 

struggled. One of these in whom I knew Nahua, the wife 
of Tikal held a copper knife in her hand, and the other, 
Maya, gripped her round the body and arms from behind, 
so that, strive as she would, she could not free herself to 
use it. Still, of the two women, Nahua was the heavier 
and the more strong, and, though slowly, she dragged the 
other closer to the cradle. \ Indeed, as I reached the room, 
she wrenched her right arm loose and raised it to strike at 
the infant with the knife. But here the matter ended, for 
at- that moment I caught her round the waist and threw 
her back, so that she fe 1 ! heavily on the floor, letting drop 
the knife in her effort to save herself. She sprang to her 
feet and ran towards the door, there to be met by the 
seflor, who seized her and held her fast. 



CHAPTER XXIII 



OUR FLIGHT, AND HOW IT ENDED 

" How came this lady here, Maya, and what does she 
seek ! " the seflor asked. 

" I do not know how she came/' gasped his wife. " My 
waiting- women were gone, and I had begun to prepare my- 
self for sleep, when, looking into yonder mirror, I saw her 
behind me, having in her hand a naked knife, and search- 
ing the room with her eyes. Presently they fell upon the 
cradle, and, lifting the knife, she took a step towards it. 
Then I turned and gripped her, holding her as well as I 
was able ; but she was too strong for me and dragged me 
forward, so that had it not been for Ignatio here, by now 
she would have made an end of our son." 

" Is this true ? " said the sefior to Nahua. 

" It is true, White Man," she answered. 



OUR FLIGHT, AND HOW IT ENDED 309 

" Why do you desire to kill one so innocent ? " he asked 
again. 

" Is it not natural that I should wish to destroy the child 
who is to supplant my child, and to break the heart of the 
woman who has broken my heart ? " Nahua answered, 
sullenly. " Amongst many other things, I have learned, 
White Man, of that ceremony which is to take place to- 
morrow, whereat my husband is to be deposed and my 
child dishonoured, that they may make room for you and 
for your child, you, the white wanderer, and your son, the 
Heaven-born, the Fore-ordained ! " 

" What have we to do with these things, woman with 
the heart of a puma ? " he asked. " If Tikal is to be 
driven from his place, it is because of his crimes." 

" And if you and yours are to be set in it, White Man, 
without doubt it is because of your virtues ; and yet, 
black-hearted knave that you are, I tell you that I know all 
the truth. I know how you forged the writing, setting the 
false for the true within the holy symbol of the Heart. I 
know also that my father helped you to the deed, for al- 
though he is dead, he wrote down that tale before he died, 
and gave it to me, together with the ancient prophecy that 
you dared to steal from the holy Sanctuary. Yes, I have 
the proofs, and when needful I will show them. I did not 
come here to do murder, at least not upon the infant ; but 
the sight of it sleeping in its cradle overcame me, and of 
a sudden I determined to wreak my wrongs upon it and 
upon its mother. In this I have failed, but when I de- 
nounce you to the Council, then I shall not fail ; then you 
will be known for what you are, and die the death that you 
deserve." 

"It comes into my mind, husband," said Maya coldly, 
" that if we would save our own lives we must rob this 
woman of hers. Such a doom she has richly earned, nor 
will any blame us when they learn what was her errand 
here." 



310 HEART OF THE WORLD 

Now when she heard these words, Nahua struggled in the 
sefior's grasp, and opened her mouth as though to scream. 

" Be silent," he said, " if you wish to keep your soul 
in you. Ignatio, close those doors and give me yonder 
shawl." 

I did so, and with the shawl we bound Nahua's arms be- 
hind her, fastening it over her mouth so that she could 
make no sound. Then we took a leather girdle and 
strapped it about her knees, so that she could not move, 
but lay helpless on the floor, glaring at us with her fierce 
eyes. 

" Now let us take counsel," I said. 

" Yes," answered the sefior, " let us take counsel, for we 
need it. One of two things we must do ; kill that woman, 
or fly the city, for if she leaves this place alive we are cer- 
tainly doomed to death before the altar, ay ! and the child 
also." 

" Fly ! " said Maya, " how can we fly, when I am still 
weak and the babe is so young and tender ? Should we 
succeed in escaping from the city and across the lake, cer- 
tainly we must perish among the snows of the mountains 
or in the deserts beyond. Also, we should be missed and 
overtaken." 

" Then Nahua must die," said the sefior. 

" Could we not swear her to silence if we released her ?" 
I asked, for I shrank from such a dreadful deed, however 
just and necessary it might be. 

"Swear her to silence!" said Maya contemptuously, 
" as easily might you swear a snake not to use its fangs, if 
one should chance to tread on it. Do you not understand 
that this woman hates me so bitterly, who she thinks 
has robbed her of her husband's love, that she would 
gladly die herself, if thereby she could bring about my 
death and that of those who are dear to me. So soon as 
she could leave her bed of sickness she came here to taunt 
me with the doom she had prepared, knowing that I was 



OUR FLIGHT, AND HOW IT ENDED 311 

alone. Then she saw the child, and so great was her desire 
for revenge that she could not even wait till the law should 
wreak it for her. No, the issue is plain : if we cannot fly, 
either she must die or we must. Is it not so, Ignatio ? " 

"It seems that it is so/' I answered sadly, "and yet the 
thing is awful." 

" It is awful, but it must be done," said the senor, " and 
it falls on me to do it for the sake of my wife and child. 
Alas ! that I was ever born, that I should live to stand face 
to face with such necessity. Could not another hand be 
found ? No ; for then we should confess ourselves as 
murderers. Give me a knife. Nay, my hands will serve, 
and this end will seem more natural, for I can say that 
when I found her in the act of murder, I seized her and 
killed her suddenly by my strength alone, not meaning it 
in my wrath." 

Now he stepped to where Nahua lay, and knelt beside 
her, and we two drew away sick at heart and hid our faces 
in our hands. 

Presently he was with us again. 

" Is it done ? " asked Maya hoarsely. . ' 

" No ; nor will be by me," he answered, in a fierce voice, 
" sooner would I choke the breath out of my own body than 
strangle this defenceless woman, cruel-hearted murderess 
though she is. If she is to be killed, some other man must 
do the deed." 

" Then it will remain undone," said Maya. " And now, 
since we have thus determined, let us think of flight, for 
the night draws on, and in flight is our only hope." 

" What, then, is to be done with this woman ? "I asked. 
" We cannot take her with us." 

"No ; but we can leave her here gagged and bound till 
they chance to find her," answered the senor. " Hearken, 
Nahua, we spare you, and to do it go forth to our own 
deaths. May your fierce heart learn a lesson of mercy from 
the deed. Farewell." 



312 HEART OF THE WORLD 

Two hours had gone by, and three figures, wrapped in 
rough scrapes, such as the common people wore, one of 
whom, a woman, carried an infant in her arms, might have 
been seen cautiously descending the city wall by means of 
a wooden ladder that ran from its summit to a jetty built 
upon piers at the foot of it, which was used as a mooring- 
place for boats during the months of inundation. As was 
common at this season of the year, the lake was already 
rising, and floating in the shallow water at the end of the 
jetty lay a pleasure-skiff which the senor and I were accus- 
tomed to use for the purpose of fishing whenever we could 
escape for a few hours from our wearisome life in the city. 

Into this skiff we entered, and, having hoisted the sail, 
set our course by the stars, steering for that village whence, 
a year before, we had embarked for the City of the Heart. 
The wind being favourable to us, our progress was rapid, 
and by the first grey light of dawn we caught sight of the 
village not a mile away. Here, however, we did not dare 
to land, for we should be seen and recognised ; therefore 
we beached our boat behind the shelter of some dwarf 
water-palms three furlongs or more below the village, and, 
having hidden it as well as we were able, set out at once 
towards the mountains. 

Passing round the back of the village without being 
seen, for as yet folk were scarcely astir, we began our 
dreadful journey. For a while Maya bore up well, but as 
the heat of the day increased she showed signs of tiring, 
which was little to be wondered at, seeing that she carried 
in her arms a child not three weeks old. At mid-day we 
halted that she might rest, hiding ourselves beneath a tree 
by the banks of a brook, and eating of such food as we had 
brought with us. In the early afternoon we started on 
again, and for the rest of that dreary day struggled forward 
as best we could, the senor and I carrying the infant alter- 
nately in addition to our other burdens. 

At length the evening fell, and we -camped for the night, 



OUR FLIGHT, AND HOW IT ENDED 313 

if camping it can be called, to sleep beneath the shadow of 
a cedar-tree without fire and with little food, having no 
covering except our serapes. Towards morning the air 
grew cold, for already we were at some height above the 
lake, and the tender infant began to wail piteously, a wail 
that wrung our hearts. Still we rose with the sun and 
went on our way, for it seemed that there was nothing else 
to do. Throughout that day, with ever- wearying footsteps, 
we journeyed, till at sunset we reached the snow-line, and 
saw before us the hunter's rest-house where we had slept 
when first we entered the Country of the Heart. 

' ' Let us go in," said Maya, " and find food and shelter 
for the night." 

Now, our plan .had been to avoid this house and gain the 
pass, where we proposed to stay till daybreak, and then to 
travel down the mountain slopes into the wilderness. 

" If we enter there, Maya, we shall be trapped," said the 
sen or ; " our only safety lies in travelling through the pass 
before we are overtaken, for it is against the law that any 
of your people should follow us into the wilderness." 

" If we do not enter, my child will die in the cold," she 
answered. " You were too tender to secure our safety by 
putting that would-be murderess to death ; have you, then, 
the heart, husband, to kill your own child ? " 

Now at these words I saw the sefior's eyes fill with tears, 
but he said only : 

" Be it as you will." 

By now, indeed, we understood all three of us that if 
we would save ourselves we must suffer the child to die, 
and, however great our necessity, this we could not do. So 
we went up to the house and entered, and there by the fire 
sat that same man and his wife whom we had found in 
this room a year ago. 

" Who are you ? " he cried, springing up. " Pardon, 
Lady, but in that garb I did not know you." 

"It is best that you should not know us," said Maya. 



3 14 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" We are wanderers who have lost our way ont hunting. 
Give us food, as you are bound to do." 

Then the man and his wife, who were kindly people, 
made obeisance to us, and set of the best they had before 
us. We ate, and, after eating, slept, for we were very weary, 
bidding the man watch and tell us if he saw any stranger 
approaching the house. Before dawn he woke us, and we 
rose. A little later he came into my room and told me 
that a large body of men were in sight of the house. Then 
I knew that it was finished, and called the others. 

" Now, there are three things that we can do," I said : 
" fly towards the pass ; defend this house ; or surrender 
ourselves." 

"There is no time to fly," answered the senor, "there- 
fore it is my counsel that we fight." 

" It is your counsel that two men armed with bows " (for 
our firearms had been taken from us on the pyramid, and 
we had never been able to recover them) " should engage 
with fifty. Well, friend, we can try it if you wish, and 
perhaps it will be as good a way of meeting our deaths as 
any other." 

" This is folly," broke in Maya; " there is but one thing 
to do ; yield ourselves and trust to fortune, if, indeed, for- 
tune has any good in store for us. Only I wish that we 
had done it before we undertook this weary journey." 

As she spoke, by the light of the rising sun we saw a 
great number of men forming a circle round the house. 
With them were several captains and lords, and among 
these I recognised Dimas and Tikal. 

" Let us put a bold face on it," said Maya. So we opened 
the door, walked out, and came into the presence of Tikal, 
Dimas, and the other lords. 

" Whom do you seek, that you come with an armed 
force ? " asked Maya. 

"Whom should I seek but your fair self, cousin ?" an- 
swered Tikal, and I saw that his eye was wild, as though 



OUR FLIGHT, AND HOW IT ENDED 315 

with drink. " If Nalma, my wife, had her way, she would 
have let you go, for she desires to see the last of you ; but 
her will is not my will, nor her desire my desire, and as it 
chances we have come up with you in time." 

Maya turned from him with a scornful gesture, and ad- 
dressed herself to Dimas, saying : 

" Tell us of what we are charged that you follow us as 
though we were evil-doers." 

" Lady," the old priest answered gravely, " it would 
seem that you have earned this name, you and your com- 
panions together. Listen : two days since you were missing, 
and the Lady Nahua was also missing. Search was made, 
and at last your private apartments were broken open, and 
there she was discovered bound and gagged. From her we 
learned the secret of your flight, and followed after you." 

" Did she, then, tell you why we fled ? " asked Maya. 
" Did she tell you that she crept to my chamber like a thief 
in the night, and there was found in the act of doing 
murder on my child ? " 

" No, Lady, she told us nothing of all this. Indeed, her 
manner was strange ; for, so soon as she was recovered some- 
what, she took back her words, and said that she knew 
naught of you or of your plans, and that if you had fled we 
should do well to let you go before worse things happened. 
But, knowing that for all this she had reasons easy to be 
guessed, we followed and found you, and now we arrest 
you to answer before the Council for your great sins, in 
that you have broken your solemn oaths by attempting to 
leave the land without the consent of the Council, and 
have added to your crimes by taking with you this child, 
the Heaven-sent deliverer, on whom rest the hopes of our 
race." 

" If we have broken our oaths," said Maya, " we broke 
them to save our lives. Were we, then, to stop in the city 
till the knife of the assassin found us out ? On the very 
night of my marriage a murderer was set upon my hus- 

z 



3l6 HEART OF THE WORLD 

band, and perhaps one stands there " and she pointed to 
Tikal "who could tell us who he was and whence he 
came. Three days ago another murderer sought the life of 
our child, and that murderer the wife of the Lord Tikal. 
Is it, then, a sin that we should take from the land one 
whose life is not safe within it." 

"All these matters you can lay before the Council, 
lady," answered Dimas, " and if Nahua is what you say, 
without a doubt she must suffer for her crime. Yet her 
evil-doing cannot pay for yours, for when you found your- 
self in danger, you should have claimed protection from 
those who could give it, and not have betaken yourselves 
to flight like thieves in terror of the watch. Come, enter 
the litter that is prepared for you, and let us be going." 

" As you will," she said ; " but one thing I pray of you, 
let this man, my cousin, Tikal the cacique, be kept away 
from me, for the sight of him is hateful to me, seeing that, 
not content with plotting to kill my husband and my 
child, he puts me to shame continually by the offer of his 
love." 

" It shall be as you wish, Lady. Your husband and your 
friend can travel by your side, and guards shall surround 
your litter to see that none molest you." 

Then we started. Of our journey back there is nothing 
to tell, unless it be to say that after its own fashion it was 
even more wretched than that which we had just accom- 
plished. Then, indeed, we were footsore, hungry, and 
racked with fears, but at least the hope of freedom shone 
before us like a guiding-star, whereas now, although we 
travelled in comfort, it was to find shame, exposure, and 
death awaiting us at last. For my part, indeed, this 
thought did not move me very much, seeing that hope had 
left me, and without hope I no longer wished to live. 
You, my friend, for whom I write this history, may think 
my saying strange, but had you stood where I stood that 
day you would not wonder at it. Even now I sometimes 



OUR FLIGHT, AND HOW IT ENDED 317 

dream that I am back in the City of the Heart, and wake 
cold with fear as a man wakes from some haunted sleep. 
True, there I had place and power and luxury, but oh ! 
sooner would I have earned my livelihood herding cattle in 
the wilderness than fret away my life within that golden 
cage. What to me were their banquets and their empty 
pleasures, or their petty strivings for rank and title, to me 
who all my days had followed the star of my high aim, 
that star which now was setting. Maya and the senor had 
each other and their child to console them ; but I had 
nothing except such friendship as they chose to spare me, 
the memory of my many failures, the clinging bitterness of 
conscience, the fear of vengeance to be wreaked, and the 
hope of peace beyond the end. Therefore I, an outworn 
and disappointed man, was prepared to welcome the doom 
that awaited me, but how would it be with the others who 
were still full of love and youth ? 

Late that night we reached the city and were led, not to 
the palace where we lived, but towards the enclosure of the 
pyramid. 

" How is this ?" asked Maya of the captain of the guard. 
" Our road lies yonder." 

" No, lady," he answered, " my orders are to take you 
up the stairway of the pyramid." 

Now Maya pressed her face against the face of her child 
and sobbed, for she knew that once more we must inhabit 
the darksome vault where her father had been taken to 
die. They led us up the stair and down the narrow 
way, till we stood in the lamp-lit hall, and heard our prison 
gates clash behind us. Then they gave us food and left 
us alone. 

Never did I pass a more evil night ; for, strive as I would 
to win it, sleep fled from me, and I tossed upon my couch, 
wondering where my bed would be on the morrow, after 
we had stood before the Council in the Sanctuary of the 
Heart, and Nahua had borne witness against us. I re- 



318 HEART OF THE WORLD 

membered that shaft before the altar, and seemed to hear 
the murmur of the water in its depths ! Well, as I have 
said, I did not fear to die, for God is merciful to sinners ; 
but oh ! it was dreadful to meet this liar's doom, and to 
remember that it was I who brought the seflor here to 
share it. 

As I mused thus, even through the massive walls of the 
vault I heard a woman scream, and, springing from my 
bed, I ran into the central hall, where the lamps burned 
always. Here I met Maya, clad in her night-dress only, 
and speeding down the hall, her wide eyes filled with ter- 
ror. 

" What has happened ? " I said, stopping her; and, as I 
spoke, the seflor came up. 

" Oh ! I have dreamed," she gasped. "I have dreamed" 
a fearful dream. I dreamed that my father came to me, 

and I cannot tell it the child the child " and she 

broke down utterly, and could say no more. 

" This place is full of evil memories, and her strength 
is shattered," said the sefior, when we had calmed her 
somewhat. " Come back, wife, and sleep." 

' ' Sleep ! " she answered. " I do not think that I shall 
ever sleep again ; and yet, unless I sleep, I shall go mad. 
Oh ! that vision ! Truly the curse of Mattai has taken 
hold of me." 

Some few hours later we met again in the great hall, but 
Maya said nothing of her dream, nor did I ask her to tell 
it, though I could see from her face that it was not forgot- 
ten. We ate, or made pretence to eat, and sat for a while 
in silence, till at length the gates opened, and through 
them came Dimas and some companion priests. Bidding 
these to stand back, he advanced alone and greeted us 
kindly. 

" I am grieved," he said, " that you should again be 
called upon to occupy this gloomy lodging ; but I had no 



OUR FLIGHT, AND HOW IT ENDED 319 

choice in the matter, since I am but the servant of the 
Council, and its commands were strict. It was feared lest 
the infant might be spirited away, were you left at liberty." 

"It will soon be spirited away, indeed, Dimas," said 
Maya, "if it be kept here in the darkness. Already the 
child pines within a week he will be dead." 

" Have no fear, lady ; your imprisonment is not for long, 
for this very night, the night of the Rising of Waters, you 
will all of you be put upon your trial before the Council in 
the Sanctuary, and charged with the crime of attempting 
to escape the land." 

" Is there no other charge ? " asked Maya. 

" None, lady, that I have heard of. What other charge 
should there be ? " 

" And what will be the verdict of the Council ? " 

" I cannot say, lady, but I know that none wish to deal 
harshly with you, and if that charge which you bring 
against the Lady Nahua can be proved, it will go in 
your favour. The crime you have attempted is a great 
one, both in our eyes and still more in the eyes of the 
people, for now they talk day and night of this Deliverer 
who has been born to them, and they will not easily for- 
give those who strove to take him from them. Still, I 
think that upon certain terms the anger of your judges 
may be appeased." 

"What terms ?" asked Maya. 

Now Dimas hesitated, and answered : 

" By the strict letter of the law, if your offence is proved 
against you, you are worthy of death, every one, unless 
you yourself are held inviolate because of your hereditary 
rank as Lady of the Heart. But it may be that the Coun- 
cil will not exact the extreme penalty. It may be that 
it will satisfy itself with driving these strangers from our 
borders instead of driving them from the land of life." 

"Yet one of them is my husband, Dimas." 

"True, lady, but the child is born !" 



320 HEART OF THE WORLD 

" I cannot be parted from my husband. Better that we 
should die together than that we should be parted. If the 
people have no need of him, neither have they any need of 
me ; let us bid them farewell and go free together. I am 
weary of this land, Dimas, for here murder dogs our steps 
and I am in terror of my life. I desire nothing from my 
people save liberty to leave them." 

" But, Lady, your people desire something from you ; they 
desire the child. Of these strangers they would be rid by 
death or otherwise, and you though of this I am not sure 
they may allow to accompany them ; but with your child 
they will never part, for he is their heaven-sent king, ths 
Son of prophecy. It comes to this, then, that if the Coun- 
cil should exercise its prerogative of mercy, as it will do if 
I and my party have sufficient weight, at the best you 
must choose between the loss of your husband or of your 
son." 

Now the face of Maya became drawn with pain, so that 
she looked as though age had overtaken her. Then she 
answered : 

" Go, tell those that sent you, Dimas, that these are the 
words of Maya, Lady of the Heart : My child is dear to me, 
for he is flesh of my flesh ; but my husband is yet dear- 
er, for he is both flesh of my flesh and soul of my soul. 
Therefore, if I must choose between the two, I choose him 
who is nearest ; for I may have another child, but never an- 
other husband." 



CHAPTER XXIV 

NAHT7A BEARS WITNESS 

SOME hours passed, and again the gates were opened, and 
through them came Tikal and a guard of five men. The 
guard he left by the gates, advancing alone to where we 
were seated near the far end of the hall. 



NAHUA BEARS WITNESS ^21 

" What would yon of ns ? " asked Maya. " Can you not 
leave me in peace even here in my dungeon ? " 

" I desire to speak with you alone, Maya." 

" Then, Tikal, I tell you now what I have told you be- 
fore, that I will not listen to your words alone. If you 
have anything to say, say it in the presence of my husband 
and my friend, or go and leave it unsaid." 

" You speak roughly to one who conies here in the hope 
of saving the lives of all of you," he answered ; " still I will 
bear with you in this as I have borne with you in much 
else. Listen : all your crimes are known to me, for Nahua, 
my wife, has revealed them to me. I know how you and 
that dead rogue, Mattai, on whom the curse of heaven has 
most justly fallen, forged the prophecy and' violated the 
sanctuary, for I have held the proofs of it in my hand." 

"Do you know that we did this to save our lives," asked 
Maya, "for if we had not done it, Mattai would have mur- 
dered us in order that, by removing me, he might assure 
his daughter in her place ? " 

"I do not know why you did it, nor do I care, seeing 
that nothing can lighten such a crime ; but I think that you 
did it in order that you might win yonder white man as a 
husband. At the least the thing is done, and vengeance 
waits you, vengeance from which there is but one escape." 

" What escape ? " asked Maya quickly, for when she 
learned that Tikal knew everything, all hope had faded 
from her heart, as from ours. 

" Maya, two people live, and two alone, who know this 
tale, Nahua my wife, and I myself. Till this morning 
there was but one, for Nahua only told me of it when she 
found that you had not escaped, and this she has done 
that she may be rid of you whom she hates as her rival. 
Therefore it was that she would have held me back from 
pursuing you, and therefore it is that she will appear before 
the Council of the Heart this night, so that her evidence 
may ensure your instant death in the Pit of Waters. But 



322 HEART OF THE WORLD 

as it chances, least of anything on the earth do I desire that 
my eyes should lose sight of you, whom now as ever I love 
better than anything on the earth." 

Now the sefior grew white with rage, and he broke in 

" You will do well to keep such words to yourself, 
Tikal ; for of this be sure, if you do not, I will add to my 
crimes and you shall not leave this place alive. No need 
to look at your guards. What do I care for your guards, 
who have but one life to lose. Speak thus again, and, be- 
fore they reach you, you shall be dead." 

s ' Let him go on, husband," said Maya ; " what can a few 
insults more or less matter to us now. Continue, most 
noble Tikal ; but, for your own sake, restrain yourself, and 
say nothing that a husband should not hear." 

" It is for this reason," he went on, taking no notice of 
the sefior's anger, " that I have come here with a plan to 
save you all ; yes, even this braggart white man who has 
robbed me of you. If Nalma and I are silent, who will 
know of your crimes ? And if the evidence of them is de- 
stroyed before your eyes, who is there that can prove them ? 
Now, I will be silent at a price. I will even bring the 
true tablet of the prophecy and the roll of Mattai's confes- 
sion, and destroy them with fire before you." 

" You will be silent," said Maya, " but what of Nahua ? 
Will she be silent also ? " 

Now TikaFs dark face grew evil with some purpose of 
his own, though whether it were of murder or of what I do 
not know. 

" Leave Nahua to me," he said. " Withdraw the charge 
you made against her, of attempting to kill yonder child, 
and free her thus of the need of appearing this night in the 
Sanctuary, and I swear to you that no word of her dread- 
ful secret shall ever pass her lips. Then you will be tried 
upon one issue only, that of having broken your oaths 
by flying the city, a crime that is not beyond forgive- 
ness." 



NAHUA BEARS WITNESS 323 

" You spoke of a price, Tikal ; tell us, what is this price 
that we must pay ? " 

" The price is yourself, Maya. Nay, hear me out ; and 
you, White Man, keep silent. If you will swear upon the 
Heart to become my wife within six months from this day, 
then I, on my part, will swear that the white man your 
husband who is not your husband, for he won the consent 
of the Council to his marriage by a trick shall be suffered 
to escape the land unharmed, taking with him his friend 
and so much of our treasure and things needful for their 
journey as he may desire. I will swear also and by this 
you may see how deep and honest is my love for you that 
your, son shall not be dispossessed of the place and rank 
which he holds in the eyes of the people as a Heaven-sent 
Deliverer whose coming was foretold by prophecy. My 
child shall give place to yours, Maya. Once before I held 
out the hand of peace to you, but you refused it and tricked 
me, and from that refusal has sprung the death of your 
father and many other sorrows. Do not refuse me again, 
Maya, lest these sorrows should be increased and multi- 
plied upon you, and upon us all. It is no strange or un- 
natural thing I ask of you that you should wed the man 
to whom for many years you were affianced, and take your 
place as the first lady in this city, instead of giving your- 
self over, with your accomplices, to the most infamous of 
deaths." 

" Yet it is most strange and unnatural, Tikal, that a 
wife should be asked to part thus from her husband. But 
stay, it is for him to speak, not me, for he may be glad to 
buy safety at this cost. First, what do you say, Ignatio ? 
Tell me, though I fear your answer, for it is easy to guess, 
seeing that Tikal offers all that you can desire, freedom, 
and treasure to enable you to execute your plans." 

" It is true, Lady," I replied, " that he offers me these 
things, though whether or no he is able to give them I can- 
not say ; and it is true also that I have no wife here whom 



324 HEART OF THE WORLD 

I must leave, and no prospect save that of a traitor's death. 
Still, Lady, I remember a certain promise that I made to 
you yonder in the wilderness, when by your courage you 
saved your husband's life ; and I remember also that it was 
through me that he, my friend, came to visit this accursed 
city. Therefore I say, let our fate be one fate." 

" Those are very noble words, friend/' she said, " such 
as could have come only from your noble heart. Now, 
husband, do you speak ? " 

" I have nothing to say, Maya," replied the seflor with a 
little laugh, " except that I wonder why you waste time, 
which we might spend happily together, in listening to this 
fellow's insults. If you bid me to go to save you, perhaps 
I might think about it ; but certainly I will not stir one 
pace from your side to save myself from any death." 

"It seems that I have got my answer," said Tikal. 
" May none of you regret it to-night when you come to 
look down into the Pit of Waters. "Well, time presses, and 
I have much to do before we meet again," and he turned 
to leave us. 

Now, as he went, despair took hold of Maya. For a 
moment she struggled with it and with herself, then she 
cried : 

"Comeback, Tikal!" 

He came, and stood before her in cold silence, and she 
spoke, addressing her husband in a slow voice : 

" You are over-hasty ; my answer is not yet spoken, 
husband. Tikal, I accept your offer. Prevent Nahua from 
giving testimony against us ; destroy the evidences she 
holds, and set these men safe, with all that they may de- 
sire, on the further side of yonder mountain, and within 
six months I will become your wife." 

Now the seflor and I stared at each other aghast. 

"Are you mad ?" he said, "or do you speak so in the 
hope of saving us ? " 

" "Would it be wonderful, husband," she answered, " if I 



NAHUA BEARS WITNESS $2$ 

should wish to save myself and my child ? That I have 
loved you and love you, you know ; yet is there any love in 
the grave ? While I live, at least I have my memories ; if 
I die, even these may be taken from me. Go back, husband, 
go back wealthy to your own people and your old life, and 
choose some other woman to be your companion. Do not 
forget me, indeed ; but let me become as a dream to you, 
seeing that for all our sakes this is the best. To you also, 
Ignatio, I say ' go/ Our fellowship has brought you little 
luck ; may its severing be more fortunate, and may you at 
last attain your ends. Tikal, give me your hand, and let 
us swear the oath." 

He stepped towards her, his eyes glowing with triumph ; 
but as their fingers touched she glanced sideways and up- 
wards, and saw the doubt and agony written on her hus- 
band's face. With a little scream, she sprang to him and 
threw herself into his arms, saying : 

" Forgive me ; I have tried my best, but this is more 
than I can do. Oh ! weak and foolish that I am, I cannot 
part from you, no, not even to save your life. Surely you 
did not think that I should have fulfilled this oath and 
given myself to him in marriage. No, no, it is to death 
that I should have given myself when you were gone. But 
I cannot part with you, I cannot part with you, though 
my selfishness is your doom/' 

' ' I rejoice to hear it," said the sefior. " Listen you, 
Tikal, if you are a man, give me a sword and let us settle 
this matter face to face. So shall one of us at least be rid 
of his doubts and troubles." 

"Surely, White Man," answered Tikal, "you must be a 
fool as well as a rogue, otherwise you would scarcely ask 
me to risk my life against yours, which is already forfeit to 
the law. Farewell, Maya ; long have you fooled and tor- 
mented me ; to-night I will repay you all," and he went. 

It might be thought that, after Tikal was gone, we should 



326 HEART OF THE WORLD 

have spoken together of what had passed, and of the dan- 
gers before us. But this was not so. I think we felt all 
of us that there was nothing more to be said. It is use- 
less to fight against Fate, and it is still more useless to 
be afraid of him, seeing that whatever we do or leave un- 
done, he has his will of us at last. So we sat and chatted 
on indifferent things, of our life at the mine at Cumarvo, 
of that night which we spent in the hacienda at Santa 
Cruz, of the death of our brave companion, Molas, and I 
know not what besides. Presently the child awoke, and its 
parents occupied themselves with it, finding resemblance 
to each other in its tiny features, while I walked up and 
down the hall, counting the lamps, smoking, and wonder- 
ing where I should be by this time on the morrow. 

At length the gates opened, for now it was almost the 
middle of the night, and there came through them Dimas 
and a guard of priests. The old man bowed before us and 
said that the time had come to lead us before the Council 
in the Sanctuary, but that we were to have no fear, seeing 
that, from all that he had been able to learn, our offence 
would be leniently dealt with. Maya asked what was to 
become of the infant, which could not be left alone, and he 
replied that she must bring it with her, whereon she began 
to wrap it in a serape. 

" Your care is needless," said Dimas. " There is a se- 
cret way to the Sanctuary from this place, by which I pro- 
pose to lead you in order that the child, our lord, shall not 
be exposed to the raw cold of the night." 

Then he took a bunch of keys from his girdle, and, hand- 
ing them to one who accompanied him, a fellow-priest and 
a member of the Council, he commanded him to go for- 
ward with several of the escort, to open the doors and light 
lamps in the passages that lay between us and the Sanctuary. 
The priest went, and', having waited awhile, we followed 
him, to find him standing by the marble wall which sep- 
arated the passages from the Sanctuary. On seeing us 



NAHUA BEARS WITNESS $27 

approach, he gave the signs, which were answered from 
within ; next he opened the false door with a silver key, 
leaving the key and the bunch to which it was attached 
fixed in the lock, for Dimas to take as he passed. This, 
however, the old priest did not do, for he thought that we 
should all return by this passage, and as we stepped into 
the Sanctuary he contented himself with closing the door 
without locking it. 

Now once more we stood within the dim and holy place, 
there to take our trial for offences committed against the 
laws of the City of the Heart. There was a full gathering 
of the Council, and Tikal, its high-priest and president, sat 
in his seat behind the altar, but I noted, with a thrill of 
hope, that Nahua his wife was not by his side, nor was she 
to be found among the members of the Council. We took 
seats that had" been prepared for us in the open space before 
the altar, Maya being placed in the centre, and the seflor 
and myself on either side of her. Next the Priest of the 
Records rose and announced that the first business before 
the Council Avas the trial of three of its members, namely, 
Maya, Lady of the Heart, her husband, the white man, 
Son of the Sea, and Ignatio, the Wanderer, a lord of the 
Heart from beyond the mountains, upon the charge of 
having broken their oaths which they took as members of 
the Council. Having read this formal accusation, the 
priest set out the case against us clearly but briefly : 

" On this very night of the festival of the Rising of 
Waters, a year ago," he began, "you, strangers, amongst 
other things swore upon the altar, setting in pledge your 
souls and bodies for the fulfilment of the oath, that with- 
out the consent of this high Brotherhood you would not 
attempt to leave the gates of the City of the Heart. Yet 
but the other day you were overtaken and seized in the act 
of flying across the mountains to the wilderness beyond. 
Nor is this all your crime, for with you was that infant, 
born of the white man and the Lady of the Heart, the 



328 HEART OF THE WORLD 

Heaven-sent Child of prophecy, of whom you wickedly 
sought to rob us and the people. Say, now, how do you 
plead to these charges ? " 

" We plead guilty/' answered Maya, " but we ask to be 
heard in our own defence. Listen, lords : Since that night 
when we were married by your command, my husband and 
I myself have been dogged by murder, and yonder, as high- 
priest of the Heart and president of your councils, he sits 
who would have murdered us. I see among you this night 
some of those who waited on me upon the day of our escape, 
having the Lord Dimas at the head of them. What did they 
tell me ? That a plot had been discovered, made by Tikal, 
my cousin, to murder my husband, my child, and my 
friend, Ignatio the Wanderer. They told me also that Ti- 
kal would be deposed because of this and his other crimes, 
and that the infant in my arms would to-night be anointed 
cacique of the people of the Heart. Is it not so, Dimas ? " 

" It is so, lady," he answered, " and learn that you are 
not the only ones who are on trial this night. Though your 
case is taken first, that of Tikal the high-priest and others 
will follow ; but till then, in virtue of his rank and office, 
he sits as president of our Council." 

Now Tikal sprang from his seat, but Dimas turned upon 
him and said sternly : 

" Keep silent, lord, or speak only to fulfil the duties of 
your place. Your judging shall be just, but know that 
there is no hope of escape for you till it is done, seeing that 
your guards are disarmed, and all the paths are watched." 

Tikal seated himself again, and Maya went on : 

" On that very night of the coming of the Lord Dimas, 
when I was alone in my chamber, the Lady JSTahua, the 
wife of Tikal, crept upon me and strove to murder this my 
child ; " and she set out the story telling how the sefior 
and I, hearing her cries for help, had entered the chamber 
and seized and bound Nahua. " Then it was, brethren, 
that sudden terror took us, and AVC fled, seeking to escape a 



NAHUA BEARS WITNESS 329 

land where we could not live in safety from one hour to 
another. This is our sin, and we leave our punishment in 
your hands. Surely it was better that we should strive to 
save the child, so that he might live to play his part, what- 
ever that may be, than that he should be kept here to be 
butchered by those whom you have raised up to rule 
you." 

When Maya had finished her speech the senor and I ad- 
dressed the Council in turn, confirming all that she had 
said, and submitting ourselves to the judgment of the 
Brotherhood. 

Now we were commanded to fall back, and took our 
stand beneath the mask of the Nameless god, while the 
Council consulted together, and there we awaited our 
doom. Presently we were brought forward again, and 
Tikal spoke to us, saying that our sentence was postponed 
till the charge against Nahua, the daughter of Mattai, and 
against himself, Tikal, the cacique and high-priest of the 
City of the Heart, had been considered, adding in a slow 
and triumphant voice : 

" Let Nahua, the daughter of Mattai, who waits with- 
out, be brought into the presence of the Heart." 

We heard, and gathered up our courage to meet the ad- 
vancing fate, for we knew that death was on us, and that 
for us there was no more pity or escape. 

The door was opened, and Nahua came through it, dressed 
in the robes of her rank, and wearing the green diadem 
that could be carried only by the wife or mother of the 
cacique. 

" What is your pleasure with me, lords?" she said 
proudly, after she had made her obeisance to the altar. 

Then the Priest of the Eecords rose and read the charge, 
namely, that she had attempted with her own hand to do 
murder upon the body of tho infant child of Maya, Lady 
of the Heart, and her husband, the white man ; also that 
she had aided and abetted Tikal, her husband, in various 



330 HEART OF THE WORLD 

acts of cruelty and misgovernment that were alleged against 
him, asking her what she pleaded in answer. 

" To the last charge, not guilty," she said. " Let Tikal 
defend his own sins. To the first, guilty. I did attempt 
to put an end to yonder brat, but Maya discovered me, 
and I was caught and bound." 

"Surely, brethren/' said Dimas, rising, "we need carry 
this matter no further. We have heard the evidence of 
the Lady Maya and the others, and now Nahua confesses 
to her crime. She confesses that ' she attempted to take 
the life of him whom she knew to be the sacred child, the 
hope of the People of the Heart, and for such a sin it 
seems to me that there is but one punishment, though it 
is terrible, and she who must suffer it is a woman and of 
high rank." 

" Stay ! " broke in Nahua. " You have not heard me 
out, and I have the right to speak before I am condemned 
to die. You charge me with having attempted to take 
the life of ' the, sacred child, the hope of the People of the 
Heart/ and, had I done this, doubtless I should be worthy 
of your doom, whereas in truth I am worthy of your praise. 
Lords of the Heart, this child whom you adore, the Heaven- 
sent Child of prophecy, whom to-night you would anoint 
as your cacique, deposing Tikal, my husband, and who, 
as you believe, shall be the star to light our race to great- 
ness and to victory, is a living lie, a fraud, and a bastard ! " 

Now a confusion broke out among the Council, and 
angry voices called to her to cease her blasphemies ; but 
she won silence, and went on : 

" Hear me out, I pray you, for, even if I wished it, I 
should not dare to speak thus at random, but am prepared 
with proof of every word I utter. You think that I would 
have killed this child to wring the heart of my rival, Maya, 
and indeed I desire to wring it ; and that I would set my 
own son in his place, and indeed I wish to set him there. 
Yet these were not my reasons for the deed. Lords of the 



NAHUA BEARS WITNESS 33 1 

Council, listen to a tale, the strangest that ever you have 
heard, and judge between me and Tikal, my husband, and 
Maya, my rival, and her friends. Mattai, my father, was 
known to you all, seeing that at the time of his death, and, 
indeed, since Tikal was anointed cacique, he stood next 
to him in place and power among the People of the Heart, 
holding those offices in the Brotherhood which now are 
filled by Dimas, and among them that of Keeper of the 
Sanctuary. Yet, lords, Mattai, my father, was no true 
man. Alas ! that I should have to say it, seeing that it 
was more for my sake that he sinned than for his own, 
since he loved me, and desired my welfare above everything 
on earth. It was this love of his that ruined him, making 
him false to his god, to his oaths, and to his country. Thus, 
in the beginning, he knew that since I was a child I had 
set my heart upon the Lord Tikal, who was affianced to 
the Lady Maya ; also that I was ambitious and yearned to 
be great. Therefore it was that he deceived Tikal, pre- 
tending that it had been revealed to him by heaven that 
the Lady Maya and her father were dead in the wilderness. 
Therefore it was also that when he had persuaded him that 
she was lost to him for ever, he pressed it upon the Lord 
Tikal that he should marry me in place of Maya, his 
affianced, who was dead, promising him in return that he 
would bring it about that he should be anointed cacique 
of the People of the Heart. All these things and others 
he did, though at that time I knew nothing of them, and 
thought in my folly that Tikal married me because he 
loved me, and sought me as the companion of his life and 
. power. 

" Then Zibalbay returned on the night of our marriage- 
feast, and with him came Maya and the strangers ; and 
from that hour my husband began to hate me because I 
was his wife in place of Maya, whom he loved. More, as I 
have learned since, he went to Zibalbay while he lay in 
prison, and offered to resign his place as cacique in hia 

4. A 



332 HEART OF THE WORLD 

favour for so long as he should live, and no more to oppose 
his schemes, if he would give him Maya in marriage after I 
had been put away either by death or by divorce. This 
Zibalbay would have done, and gladly ; but, as it chanced, 
Maya here had set her heart upon the white man during 
their journeyings together through the wilderness, and 
refused to be separated from him that she might be 
palmed off in marriage upon Tikal. Yet he might have 
won his way, for their case was desperate, and the alterna- 
tive was death had not Mattai, my father, found a plan 
whereby they could be saved and I remain the wife of the 
cacique. This was the plan, lords : that a prophecy should 
be set in the symbol of the Heart yonder, such as would 
deceive the Council of the Heart, and bring it about that 
Maya should be given in marriage to the white man whom 
she loved. Lords, this was done. At the dead of night 
they crept to the Sanctuary, and, opening the Heart, they 
placed within it that tablet which you have seen, the tab- 
let that foreshadowed the birth of a Deliverer. The rest 
you know." 

"It is false," cried many voices. "Such sacrilege is 
not possible." 

" It is not false," answered Nahua, ' ' and I will prove to 
you that the sacrilege was possible. The Heart was opened, 
and the false prophecy forged by my father was placed 
within it, where it was found by you on the night of the 
festival of the Eising of Waters, this day a year ago. But 
when the holy Heart was opened, behold ! it was not empty, 
for in it lay another prophecy, a true prophecy, which 
was removed from it, that the lie which has deceived you 
might be set in its place." 

""Where, then, is that writing ?" asked Dimas. 

" Here," she answered, drawing the tablet from her breast. 
" Listen " and she read : 

" The Eye that has slept and is awakened sees the heart 
and purpose of the wicked. I say that in the hour of the 



FAREWELL 333 

desolation of my city not all the waters of the Holy Lake 
shall wash away their sin." 

" Take it, lords, and see for yourselves/' she continued, 
laying the tablet on the altar. " Now, listen again, and 
learn how it chanced that this relic came into my keeping. 
After he had wrought this great sin, the curse of the Name- 
less god fell upon my father, and, as you know, he was 
smitten with a sore disease. Then it came about that, when 
he lay dying, remorse took him, and he wrote a certain 
paper which he caused to be witnessed and given to me, 
together with this tablet. In my hand I hold that paper, 
lords ; hear it and judge for yourselves whether I have 
spoken truth or falsehood," and she read aloud the con- 
fession of Mattai, that set out every detail of our plot and 
the manner of its execution. 

" Now, lords," she added, when the reading was finished 
and the signatures had been examined, " you will under- 
stand how it happened that in my rage at this tidings I 
strove to kill yonder infant, who has been palmed off upon 
you as the seed of the god, and I leave it to you to deal 
with those who planned the fraud." 



CHAPTER XXV 

FAKEWELL 

NAHTJA ceased and sat down, and so great was the aston- 
ishment or rather the awe of the Council at the tale that 
she had told, that for a while none of them spoke. At 
length Dimas rose, and said : 

" Maya, Lady of the Heart, and you strangers, you have 
heard the awful charge that is brought against you. What 
do you say in answer to it ? " 



HEART OF THE WORLD 

" We say that it is true/' answered Maya calmly. " We 
were forced to choose between the loss of our lives and the 
doing of this deed, and we chose to live. It was Mattai 
who hatched the fraud and executed the forgery, and now 
it seems that we must suffer for his sin as well as for our 
own. One word more : Ignatio here did not enter into this 
plot willingly, but was forced into it by my husband and 
myself, and chiefly by myself." 

Dimas made no answer, bat at a sign the two priests who 
guarded the altar with drawn swords came forward and 
drove us into the passage that led from the Sanctuary to 
the Hall of the Dead, where they shut us in between the 
double doors, leaving us in darkness. 

Here, as all was finished, I knelt down to offer my last 
prayers to Heaven, while Maya wept in her husband's arms, 
taking farewell of him and of her child, which wailed upon 
her breast. 

" Truly/' he said, " you were wise, wife, when you urged 
us not to enter this Country of the Heart. Still, what is 
done cannot be undone, and, having been happy together 
for a little space, let us die together as bravely as we may, 
hoping that still together we may awake presently in some 
new world of peace." 

While he spoke, the door was opened, and the priests with 
drawn swords led us back into the Sanctuary. As Maya 
crossed the threshold first of the three of us, she was met by 
Tikal, who with a sudden movement, but without rough- 
ness, took the child from her arms. Now we saw what 
was prepared for us, for the stone in front of the altar had 
been lifted, and at our feet yawned the black shaft from 
which ascended the sound of waters. They placed us with 
our backs resting against the altar ; but Tikal stood in front, 
and between him and us lay the mouth of the pit. 

" Maya, daughter of Zibalbay the cacique, Lady of the 
Heart ; white man, Son of the Sea ; Ignatio the Wanderer ; 
and Mattai the priest, whom, being dead in the body, we 



FAREWELL 335 

summon in the spirit/' began Dimas in a cold and terrible 
voice, " you by your own confession are proved guilty of 
the greatest crimes that can be dreamed of in the wicked 
brain of man and executed by his impious hands. You 
have broken your solemn oaths taken in the presence of 
heaven and your brethren ; you have offered insult to the 
god we worship, and violated his Sanctuary ; and you have 
palmed off as their god-sent prince, upon the people who 
trusted you, a bastard and a child of sin. For all these and 
other crimes which you have committed, why we know not, 
it is not in our power to mete out to you a just reward. 
That must be measured to you elsewhere, when you have 
passed our judgment-seat and your names are long forgot- 
ten upon the earth. 

" This is the sentence of the Council of the Heart, that 
your name, Mattai, be erased from the list of the officers of 
the Heart ; that your memory be proclaimed accursed ; that 
your dwelling-place be burned with fire, and the site of it 
strewn with salt ; that your corpse be torn from its grave 
and laid upon the summit of the pyramid till the birds of 
the air devour it ; and that your soul be handed over to the 
tormentors of the lower world to deal with according to 
their pleasure for ever and for aye. 

" This is the sentence of the Council of the Heart upon 
you, Maya, daughter of Zibalbay the cacique, Lady of the 
Heart ; white man, Son of the Sea, and Ignatio the Wan- 
derer : That your names be erased from the roll of the 
Brethren of the Heart, and proclaimed accursed in the 
streets of the city ; that you be gagged, bound hand and 
foot, and chained living to the walls of the Sanctuary, and 
there left before the altar of the god which you have vio- 
lated, till death from thirst and hunger shall overtake you ; 
that your corpses be laid upon the pyramid as a prey to the 
birds of the air ; and that your souls be handed over to the 
tormentors of the under-world to deal with according to 
their pleasure for ever and for aye. It is spoken. Let the 



HEART OF THE WORLD 

sentence of the Council be done. But first, since this bas- 
tard babe is too young to sin and suffer punishment, let him 
be handed into the keeping of the god, that the god may 
deal with him according to his pleasure." 

As the words passed his lips, and before we fully under- 
stood them, dazed as we were with the terror of our awful 
doom, Tikal stepped forward and even now I shudder 
when I write of it holding the poor infant, which at this 
instant began to wail again as though with pain or fear, over 
the mouth of the pit, suddenly he let it fall into the depths 
beneath. 

The shriek of the agonised mother ran round the walls 
of the holy place, and before it had died away the seflor had 
leaped forward leaped like a puma across the gulf of the 
open well and gripped Tikal by the throat and waist. He 
gripped him, and, rage giving him strength, he lifted him 
high above his head and hurled him down the dreadful place 
whither the child had gone before. 

With a hoarse scream, Tikal vanished, and for a moment 
there was silence. It was broken by the voice of Maya, 
crying aloud, in accents of madness and despair, 

" Not all the waters of the Holy Lake shall wash away 
our sin, yet may they serve to avenge us upon you, you 
murderers of a helpless child ! " 

As she spoke, followed by the sefior and myself, who I 
think alone of all the company guessed her dreadful purpose, 
Maya ran round the altar, and with both her hands grasped 
the symbol of the Heart which lay upon it. 

"Forbear!" cried the voice of Dimas, but she did not 
heed him. Before he or any of ua could reach her, dragging 
at it with desperate strength, she tore the ancient symbol 
from its bed, and with a loud and mocking laugh had cast 
it down upon the marble floor, where it shattered into 
fragments. 

For one second all was still ; then from the altar there 
came a sudden twang as of harp-strings breaking, that was 




Out of the mouth of the pit ... sprang a vast column of water. 



FAREWELL 337 

followed instantly by another and more awful sound, the 
sound of the roar of many waters. 

"Fly! fly!" cried a voice, "the floods are loosed and 
destruction is upon us and upon the People of the Heart!" 

Now the Council rushed one and all towards the door of 
the Sanctuary ; but I, Ignatio, by the grace of Heaven, re- 
membered the other door, the secret door through which 
we had entered, that the priest had left ajar. 

" This way ! " I cried in Spanish to the seflor, and seiz- 
ing Maya by the arm I dragged her with me into the pas- 
sage. When all three of us were through I turned to close 
the door, and as I did so I saw an awful sight. 

Out of the mouth of the pit before the altar sprang a 
vast column of water, which struck the roof of the Sanctu- 
ary with such fearful force that already the massive marble 
blocks began to rain down upon the crowd of fugitives, 
who struggled and in vain to open the door and escape into 
the Hall of the Dead. One other thing I saw ; it was the 
corpse of Tikal, vomited from the depth into which the 
senor had hurled him, a shapeless mass ascending and de- 
scending with the column of water as alternately it struck 
and rebounded from the roof. 

Then, before the flood could reach it, I closed the door, 
and, possessing myself of the bunch of keys that still hung 
in the lock, we fled up the passages and stairs till we came 
to the hall where we had been imprisoned. Here, how- 
ever, we dared not stay, for already strange gurgling sounds 
struck upon our ears, and we felt the mighty fabric of the 
pyramid shake and quiver beneath the blows of the impris- 
oned waters as they burst their way upward and outward. 
Seizing lamps, we ran to the copper gates at the head of 
the hall, and not without trouble found the key that 
opened them. We had no time to spare, for as we left it 
the water rushed in at the further end of the chamber, a 
solid wave that in some few seconds filled it to the depth 
of six or eight feet. On we fled before the advancing flood, 



333 HEART OF THE WORLD 

and well was it for us that our course lay upwards, for 
otherwise we must have been drowned as we searched for 
the keys to open the different gates and doors. But now 
fortune, which for so long had been our foe, befriended us, 
and the end of it was that we reached the summit of the 
pyramid just as the dawn began to break. 

The dawn was breaking and seldom perhaps has the 
light of day revealed a more wonderful or terrible sight to 
the eyes of man. Outside the gates of the courtyard of the 
pyramid were gathered a great multitude of people waiting 
to be admitted to celebrate the feast that on this day of the 
year was to be held, according to the custom, upon the sum- 
mit of the pyramid. Indeed, they should have already been 
assembled there, but it was the rule that the gates could 
not be opened until the Council had left the Sanctuary, 
and this night the Council sat late. As we looked at them 
a cry of fear and wonder rose from the multitude, and this 
was the cause of it. Along that street which ran from the 
landing-place to the great square rushed a vast foam- 
topped wall of water twenty feet or more in depth by a 
hundred broad. Now we learned the truth. The sym- 
bol on the altar I know not how was connected with 
secret and subterranean sluice-gates which for many gene- 
rations had protected the City of the Heart from flood. 
When it was torn from its bed these sluice-gates were 
opened, and the waters, rushing in, sought their natural 
level, which at this season of the year was higher than the 
housetops of the city. 

On the summit of the pyramid were two priests who 
tended the sacred fire and made ready for the service to be 
celebrated. Seeing us emerge from the watch-house, they 
ran towards us, wringing their hands, and asking what 
dreadful thing had come to pass. I replied that we did 
not know, but that seeing the water gather in our prison 
we had fled from it. How we had fled they never stopped 
to ask, but ran down the stairway of the pyramid, only to 



FAREWELL 339 

return again presently, for before they reached its base 
their escape was cut off. 

Meanwhile the terror thickened and the doom began. 
Everywhere the waters spread and gathered, replenished 
from the inexhaustible reservoir of the vast lake. Whole 
streets went down before them, to vanish suddenly beneath 
their foaming face, while from the crowd below rose one 
continuous shriek of agony. 

Maya heard it, and, casting herself face downward upon 
the surface of the pyramid, that she might not see her 
handiwork, she thrust her fingers into her ears to stop them, 
while the seflor and I watched, fascinated. Now the flood 
struck the people, some thousands of them, who were 
gathered on the rising ground at the gates of the enclosure 
of the temple, and lo ! in an instant they were gone, borne 
away as withered leaves are borne before a gale. Ere a man 
might count ten the most of the population of the City 
of the Heart had perished ! 

For a little while some of the more massive houses stood, 
only to vanish one by one, in silence as it seemed, for now 
the roar of the advancing waters mastered all other sounds. 
Before the sun was well up it was finished, and of that an- 
cient and beautiful city, Heart of the World, there re- 
mained nothing to be seen except the tops of trees and the 
upper parts of the pyramids of worship rising above the 
level of the lake. The Golden City was no more. It was 
gone, and with it all its hoarded treasures, its learning and 
its ancient faith, and that which for many generations had 
been held to be a myth had now become a myth indeed. 
One short hour had sufficed to sweep out of existence the 
ripe fruit of the labour of centuries, and with it the dwin- 
dling remnant of the last pure race of Indians, who followed 
the customs and the creed of my forefathers. Doubtless 
their day was done, and the Power above us had decreed 
their fall ; still, so vast and sudden a ruin was a thing aw- 
ful to behold, or even to think upon. What, I wondered, 



340 HEART OF THE WORLD 

would the founders of this great city and the fashioners of 
its solemn pyramids and Sanctuary have thought and felt, 
could they have foreseen the manner of its end ? Would 
they, then, have set the holy symbol so cunningly upon its 
altar, that the strength of a maddened woman, by tearing 
it away, could bury altar, temple, town, and all who lived 
therein, for ever beneath the surface of the lake ? This 
they did to protect their homes and fanes against the foe, 
so that, if need were, they could prefer destruction to dis- 
honour ; but they did not foresee indeed they never 
dreamed that this foe might be of their own race, and that 
the hand of one of her children would bring disaster, utter 
and irredeemable, upon the proud head of their holy strong- 
hold, the city Heart of the World. 

Now foot by foot the waters found their level, filling up 
the cup in which the town had stood, and the bright sun- 
light shone upon their placid surface as they rippled round 
the sides of the pyramid and over the flat roofs of the sub- 
merged houses. Here and there floated a mass of wreck- 
age, and here and there a human corpse, over which already 
the water-eagles began to gather, and that was all. 

Presently Maya rose to her knees and looked out from 
beneath the hollow of her hand, for the light was dazzling 
there upon the white summit of the pyramid. Then she 
flung her arms above her head and uttered a great and 
bitter cry. 

" Behold my handiwork," she said, "and the harvest of 
my sin ! Oh ! my father, that dream which you sent to 
haunt my sleep was dreadful, but it did not touch the 
truth. Oh ! my father, the people whom you would have 
saved are dead ; lost is the city that you loved, and it is I 
who have destroyed them. Oh ! my father, my father, 
your curse has found me out indeed, and I am accursed." 

Some such words as these she spoke, then began to laugh, 
and turning to the seiior, she said, 

" Where is the child, husband 'i " 




She was mad. 



FAREWELL 34 1 

He could not answer her, but she took no note of it, only 
she bent her arms, rocking them and crooning as though 
the infant lay upon her breast, then came first to him and 
next to me, saying, 

" Look, is he not a pretty boy ? Am I not happy to be 
the mother of such a boy ? " 

I made pretence to look, but the sight of her pitiful face 
and of the empty arms, as she swayed them, was so dreadful 
that I was forced to turn away to hide my tears. Now I 
saw the truth. Weariness, sorrow, and shock had turned 
her brain, and she was mad. 

We led her to the watch-house, where there was shelter, 
and the priests, who had returned, gave us food so soon as 
we could make them understand that we needed it, for they 
too were almost mad. Here her last illness seized the Lady 
Maya. It began with a hardening of the breast, which 
changed presently to fever. Two days and nights, with 
breaking hearts, we nursed her there upon the pyramid, 
striving not to listen to her sick ravings and piteous talk 
about the child, and at dawn upon the third day she died. 
Before she died her senses returned to her, and she spoke 
to her husband beautiful and tender words which seem al- 
most too holy to set down. 

"Alas I" she ended, "as my heart foretold me, I have 
brought you nothing but evil, and now the time has come 
for me to go away from you. Ignatio was right, and we 
were wrong, or rather I was wrong. We should have died 
together a year ago, if that were needful, sooner than 
commit the sin we worked in the Sanctuary, for then at 
least our hands would have been clean, nor would the 
blood of the people have rested on my head. Yet, believe 
me, husband, that when I did the deed of death, I was 
mad, for I had seen our child murdered before my eyes and 
I heard a voice within me bidding me to be avenged. 
Well, it is done, and I have suffered for it and perhaps 
shall suffer more, yet I think that I was but the hand or 



34 2 HEART OF THE WORLD 

the instrument of Fate predestined to bring destruction 
upon a race already doomed, and on a faith outworn. 
That faith I no longer believe in, for you have taught me 
another worship, therefore I do not fear the vengeance of 
the god of my people. May my other sins find forgiveness, 
if they are sins, for it was my love of you that led me to 
them. Husband, I trust that you may escape from this 
ill-omened place, and live on for many years in happiness ; 
but most of all I trust that in the land which you will 
reach at last, you may find us waiting for you, the child 
and I together. Farewell to you. This is a sad parting, 
and my life has been short and sorrowful. Yet I am glad 
to have lived it, since it brought me to your arms, and, 
however little I may have deserved it, I think that you 
loved me truly and will love my memory even when I am 
dead. To you also, Ignatio, farewell. You have been a 
true friend to me, though I brought you no good luck, and 
at times I was jealous of you. Think kindly of me if you 
can, though had it not been for me you might have at- 
tained your ends, and, as in the old days before we met, 
comfort my husband with your friendship." 

Then once more she turned to the seflor and in a gasping 
and broken voice prayed of him not to forget her or her 
child. I heard him answer that this she need not fear, as 
his happiness died with her, and, even if he should escape, 
he thought that they would not be parted for very long, 
nor could any other woman take her place within his heart. 

She blessed him and thanked him, caressing his face 
with her dying hands, and, unable to bear more of such a 
sight, I left them together. 

An hour later the seflor came from the watch-house, and 
though he did not speak, one glance at him was enough to 
tell me that ail was over. 

So died Maya, Lady of the Heart, the last of the ancient 
royal blood of the Indian princes, myself alone excepted, 



FAREWELL 343 

a very sweet and beautiful woman, though at times head- 
strong, passionate, and capricious. 

Now while Maya lay dying we learned that some Indians 
still lived on the mainland, men and women who had been 
sent there to tend the crops, for we saw a canoe hovering 
round what once had been the Island of the Heart. The 
two priests who were with us on the pyramid tried to 
signal to it to come to our rescue, but either those in the 
boat did not see us, or they were terror-stricken and feared 
to approach the pyramid. Still we kept the body all that 
day, hoping that help might reach us, so that we could take 
it ashore for burial. Towards night, however, when none 
came, we made another plan. On the roof of the watch- 
house the sacred fire still burned, for the two priests had 
tended it, more from custom, I think, than for any other 
reason. Hither we brought some of the gilded stools that 
were used by the nobles of the Heart on days of festival, 
and all the fuel that had been stored to replenish the fire, 
building the whole into a funeral pyre around and above 
the brazier. Then, as it caught, we carried out the body of 
Maya, wrapped in her white robes, and laid it upon the 
pyre and left it. 

Presently the great pile was alight and burning so 
fiercely that it lit up the whole summit of the pyramid and 
the darkness which surrounded it. All that night we 
watched it, while the two" priests lamented and beat their 
breasts after their fashion, till at length it flared itself 
away, and the holy fire that had burned for more than a 
thousand years died down and was extinguished. It seemed 
very fitting that the latest office of this ancient and conse- 
crated flame should be to consume the body of the last of 
the royal race who had tended it for so many generations. 
Towards dawn a wind sprang up with drizzling rain, and 
when we approached the place at daybreak it was to find 
it cold and blackened. No spark remained alight, and no 



344 HEART OF THE WORLD 

ash or fragment could be seen of her who was once the 
beautiful and gracious Lady of the Heart. 

Now we set ourselves sadly enough to find a means of 
escape to the mainland, which indeed it was time to do, for 
the waters, working in its centre, were sapping the founda- 
tions of the great pyramid, portions of which had already 
fallen away. Our plan was to form a raft by lashing to- 
gether some benches that were at hand, and on it to float 
or paddle ourselves to the shore. This, however, we were 
spared the pains of doing, for when our task was half com- 
pleted we saw a large canoe, manned by three Indians, ad- 
vancing towards us, and signalled to them to paddle round 
to the steps of the pyramid. They did so, and, taking with 
us all the food and such few articles of value as were to be 
found in the watch-house, the four of us embarked, though 
not without difficulty, for the current ran so strongly round 
the crumbling angles of the pyramid that it was hard to 
bring the canoe up to the stairs. 

From the Indians we learned that those on shore were 
so overwhelmed with horror at the catastrophe which had 
fallen upon their holy city, that they did not dare to ap- 
proach the place where it had stood. But when on the 
previous night they saw the great flame of Maya's funeral 
pyre, they knew that men still lived upon the pyramid, 
who, as they thought, were signalling to them for help, 
and ventured out to save them.. They asked us how it 
came about that the waters had overwhelmed the city 
which had stood among them safely from the beginning of 
time. We replied that we did not know, and the priests 
with us, now that they had escaped with their lives, seemed 
too prostrated to tell our deliverers that we had been im- 
prisoned in the hollow of 'the pyramid, even if they knew 
that this was so. 

On reaching the shore we found a little gathering of 
awe-stricken Indians, perhaps there may have been a hun- 
dred and fifty of them, the sole survivors of the People of 



ENVOI 345 

the Heart, unless indeed a few still lived on the high land 
of those portions of the island of the Heart that as yet 
had not been submerged. Open-mouthed and almost 
without comment they listened to the terrible tale of the 
sudden and utter destruction of their city. When it was 
done, one among them suggested that the white man 
should be killed, as without doubt he had brought mis- 
fortune and the vengeance of heaven upon their race, 
but this proposal seemed to find no favour with the rest of 
them. Indeed, had they known the part which we played 
in the disaster, I doubt if they would have found the spirit 
to make an end of us. 

On the other hand they gave us what food and clothing 
we required, and even weapons, such as machetes, bows 
and arrows, and blow-pipes, and left us to go our way. 
Often I have wondered what became of them, and if any 
of their number, or of their children, still survive. 

So we turned our faces to the mountains, and on the 
second day we crossed them safely, for Maya had told us 
the secret of the passage through the rocks, which, under 
her guidance, we had passed blindfolded. 

Thus, at length, having looked our last upon the blue 
waters of the Holy Lake, sparkling in the sunshine above 
the palaces of the city and the bones of its inhabitants, 
did we leave that accursed Country of the Heart, where so 
much loss and evil had befallen us. 



ENVOI 

MY friend, now I, Ignatio, have finished writing that 
story of how I came to visit the Golden City of the Indians, 
which so many have believed to be fabulous, and that to-day 
exists no more. It is a strange story, and I trust that it may 
interest you to read it when I am dead and buried. 



340 HEART OF THE WORLD 

Perhaps you would like to know the details of our home- 
ward journey, but in truth I have neither the strength nor 
the patience to set them down. It was a terrible journey, 
and once we both of us fell ill with fever from which I 
thought that we should not recover ; but recover we did 
by the help of some wandering Indians who nursed us, 
and at length reached this place from which we had fled 
for our lives nearly two years before. We found the haci- 
enda deserted, for it had the reputation of being haunted, 
though some of the Indian dependents, or rather slaves, of 
that great villain, Don Pedro Moreno, still worked patches 
of the land. Well, the senor took a fancy to stay in the 
place, for it was here that he had first seen his wife, and so 
we sold that girdle of emeralds which Maya took from the 
chest of ornaments and gave to me when we were impris- 
oned for the first time in the hall of the pyramid (do not 
lose the clasp, friend, for it is the only remaining relic of 
the People of the Heart), and with the proceeds we bought 
at a cheap rate from the government of the day, who had 
entered into possession of them, this house and the wide 
lands round it, that I have cultivated ever since. For, my 
friend, now my ambitions were finished. I had played my 
last card and it had failed me, and, albeit with a sorrowful 
mind, I abandoned my hopes for the regeneration of the 
Indians which I had no longer the means or the health and 
vigour to attempt. Also, I was no more Lord of the Heart, 
for with its counterpart it was lost in the Sanctuary yonder 
beneath the waters of the Holy Lake, and with the ancient 
symbol went much of my power. 

For five years the senor and I lived here together, but I 
think that during all this time he was dying. He, who 
used to be so strong in body and merry in mind, never 
regained his health or spirits from that hour when Maya 
passed upon the pyramid, and though he seldom spoke of 
her, I know that night and day she was always present in 
his thoughts. Twice in the spring seasons he suffered 



ENVOI 347 

from calenturas, as we call the fever of the country, which 
left him sallow in face and shrunken in body ; and when 
the spring came round for the third time, I begged him 
to go to Mexico for change, returning to the hacienda in 
the summer. In vain ; he would not do it, indeed I do not 
think that he cared whether he lived or died. So the end 
of it was that the calentura took him again, and die he did 
in my arms, happily as a child that falls asleep. 

Now my days are accomplished also, and, having failed 
in all things and known much sorrow and disappoint- 
ment, I go to join him. My friend, farewell. Perhaps 
you will think of me from time to time, and, though 
you are a heretic, send up a prayer to heaven for the wel- 
fare of the soul of the old Indian 



THE END. 



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LOS ANGELES 

r 

ed below. 



MM 06 19)| 

Htc-B uv 

^ OCT06 1 
APR 18 





JS&SSKS** 



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